About Us

Opening Fall 2019

Villa Bella Expeditionary School is a K-5 elementary school in Pueblo District 70.

    Now accepting applications for students entering grades Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.

    Now accepting applications for students entering grades Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.

    Our Crew: VBE Faculty & Staff

    Meet the educators & staff dedicated excited to welcome students in August.

    Jessica Ortiz

    Director of Instruction, Principal

    Mrs. Ortiz has a BA from the University of Northern Colorado & a Master’s degree from CU, Boulder. Mrs. Ortiz will be facilitating data-driven and equity-focused teams; lead in the development of high-quality, learner-driven, & purposeful curriculum and instruction and support the curriculum adoption implantation process. She is the mother of two & loves traveling. Mrs. Ortiz enjoys hiking, kayaking, and camping with her family.

    Elizabeth Plinske
    Director of Operations

    Originally from Illinois, Elizabeth 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 bookkeeping for three different organizations. Mrs. Plinske is a mother of two and, with her family, loves to hike, bike and go to CSU-Pueblo sporting events.

    Pam Pettijohn
    Office Manager

    Mrs. Pettijohn will be the Office Manager at Villa Bella Expeditionary. She has been a school secretary for the last nine years in Pueblo School District 70 and has greatly enjoyed getting to know the students, parents, and greater Pueblo community. She is married with two teenage sons who love to rodeo. They all moved to Colorado 11 years ago from Wisconsin and love the winters in Pueblo. Mrs. Pettijohn looks forward to meeting and working with the staff, students, and parents at VBE.

    Clifford Payne
    Facility Manager

    Mr. Payne has nearly 30 years of experience as owner and operator of a painting and home remodeling business. He recently moved to Pueblo from Sikeston, MO with his wife to be near his eldest daughter and grandson, who will also be attending school at VBE. Mr. Payne loves being outdoors, camping, razor riding, and being with his family and friends. He looks forward to working along side amazing staff, students, and parents at Villa Bella Expeditionary.

    Leann McIntire
    3rd Grade

    Mrs. McIntire is native to Pueblo. She holds a BA in Liberal Arts & received a Master’s degree in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education. She has been teaching elementary grades for 15 years. Mrs. McIntire & her husband, Matt, spend much of their time with their three boys, whether at home, or out in our community. The family loves to bake and cook and do so regularly together. She is excited to inspire & grow with the 3rd grade crew.

    Dylon Ortiz
    3rd Grade

    Mr. Ortiz recently graduated from Colorado State University– Pueblo with his Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in Elementary Education. As a new teacher, he wants to help students experience success. He will focus on helping them become successful teammates, leaders, and community members. Dylon’s goal as a teacher at VBE is to show students how to be respectful, responsible, compassionate, and to teach the importance of integrity. He cannot wait to get the year started!

    Sarah Alvarez
    2nd Grade

    Born & raised by educators in Midland, TX, education is in Ms. Alvarez’s blood. She attended Texas Tech University and graduated in May 2017. Ms. Alvarez has been a 1st grade teacher for the past two years. When not at school, she loves to spend time with her family and friends, attend sporting events and travel whenever possible! She is ecstatic to have this opportunity to be a founding teacher and looks forward to getting to know the students and community of Villa Bella!

    Crystalyn Garcia
    2nd Grade

    A proud Pueblo native, Mrs. Garcia received her undergraduate degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Denver and a Masters Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Colorado. Mrs. Garcia has taught at Fountain International Elementary for the past 6 years. Outside of school she loves reading, movies, yoga, and adventuring outdoors with her husband and two amazing kids! 

    Kayla Fisher
    1st Grade

    Ms. Fisher, a Pueblo native, proudly can say that she instills curiosity in the children that cross her path. Her goal in life is to educate the future generations to be self-sufficient community members. When not teaching you can find Ms. Fisher hiking, biking, cooking, gardening, taking photos, or making jewelry. She is a certified yoga instructor and loves to incorporate this practice into the classroom when possible. She enjoys being able to work with students, yet she has a love for all children.

    Halie Lane
    1st Grade

    Ms. Lane 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 also is a high school dance team coach at East High School, as well as a recreational dance coach at Stuntz Academy. Her hobbies include camping, dancing, and spending time with her family and friends. She is so excited to dive into hands on learning with VBE students and watch them grow as learners.

    Karlee Gradisar

    Ms. Karlee Gradisar loves working with children because, “they are unapologetically themselves and (she) hopes they never lose that.” Ms. Gradisar 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.”

    Lanae Long

    Ms. Long is born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Elementary Education from Colorado State University-Pueblo. As a District 70 alumnus herself, she is honored to aid in shaping the young minds of Pueblo’s community. In addition to teaching, Lanae is passionate about serving the Pueblo community with her family. She likes to spend time in the mountains hiking and enjoying family picnics.

    Melanie Steves
    Adventure Bound Coordinator

    Ms. Melanie Steves is one of Pueblo’s very own. She is a Pueblo County HS graduate, holds an A.A.S Business degree from PCC and has her B.S. in Exercise Science, Health Promotion, & Recreation from CSU-Pueblo. As an avid athlete and outdoors woman, she brings this passion into her career in order to teach while letting our youth discover the skills needed for an overall joyful and healthy way of life. She can’t wait to give your child a challenging class that is full of fun and exciting learning!

    Jason Trigo
    Creative Arts Coordinator

    Mr. Trigo’s background in instrumental music extends over 20 years. In 2012, he went back to school where he graduated Cum Laude from Colorado State University-Pueblo with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art in 2015. Mr. Trigo is now teaching in the field of Art and has been for the past 3 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.

    Alicia Raebel
    Health Teacher/Office Aid

    While not a Pueblo native, Alicia Raebel has lived here for the majority of her life. Mrs. Raebal studied Psychology at Colorado State University-Pueblo and has taken some nursing classes at Pueblo Community College. Her professional experience includes managing big box retail stores as well as working in a surgery center as a surgery scheduler and an OR assistant. Mrs. Raebel will assist our school nurse tend to the medical needs of our Explorers as well as helping out in the school office. She loves reading, crafting and most importantly being outdoors with her three boys.

    Board of Directors

    Committed to bringing innovative & rigorous educational opportunities to Pueblo, Colorado

    Scott Robertshaw

    Mr. Robertshaw is the Associate Director of Student Recreation for CSU-Pueblo. He has a B.S in Physical Education K-12 and a M.Ed. in Education with an emphasis in Outdoor Education Administration. He brings years of Expeditionary learning experience in some of the first EL schools in Colorado.

    Carol Spradley

    Carol has spent most of her life in Pueblo and has a passion for helping the community grow. She served many years on the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, the Parkview Hospital Foundation Board and the committee that oversaw the renovation project of the children’s ward known as Kidsville.

    Stacie Shirley

    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.

    Burnie Zercher

    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

    Lee Meisner, a Sterling native, earned a Bachelor’s & MBA from CSU-Pueblo.  Lee works closely with the Friends of Football on projects dedicated to the Pueblo area.  Lee currently serves on the Dean’s advisory board for the Hasan School of Business and the Land Holdings Committee for the CSU-Pueblo Foundation.

    Jane Rawlings

    Jane is a Pueblo enthusiast with more than 20 years of experience on various boards and foundations including El Pomar, Robert H. Rawlings, and Ark Basin. Jane has a passion for improving the economy and educational opportunities in Pueblo, CO.