Meet the faculty & staff at awakening seed school
Kelly Starr | Toddler 1s Assistant Teacher
About Kelly: Kelly was born and raised in Phoenix, moved to Flagstaff for fifteen years, and now is back in Phoenix. Kelly loves Arizona and all its amazing diversity. Working with children comes naturally to Kelly, which is why she is about to officially become a teacher. Recently, after doing an internship at the Awakening Seed School, she fell in love with the school, the children and the teachers. Kelly is now part of the Toddlers 1s team. Kelly helps children to feel safe, loved, and to be excited about learning, indoors and outdoors.
Education: Kelly is currently a Northern Arizona University student seeking her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood Certification. She will be graduating this December.
Free time: Kelly enjoys aroma therapy, music, funny movies, baking, cooking and having dinner with family and friends, hiking and mountain biking. Most of all she loves spending time with her husband John, their three grown children, and their two dogs.
Darlene Cardon | Toddler 2s Assistant Teacher
Mary Vaughan | Preschool 3s Assistant Teacher
About Mary: Mary grew up in Tempe. She and her husbandhave been married for 29 years and have three grown children. She has worked in preschools since 2005 and is so happy to have found the Awakening Seed School, where she will be starting her third year. She loves to sing and read with the children, plus get messy with glue and glitter and explore and play in the garden areas.
Education: Mary graduated from Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, and then Arizona State University.
Free Time: In her free time Mary loves to cook, write, and travel.
Emily Richeal | Toddler 1s Assistant Teacher, After School Staff
About Emily: Emily is a 2017 high school graduate. She attended the Seed from time she was 18 months old through 5th grade. Emily was one of the original toddlers in the Seed’s toddler program, taught by her mom, Sarah Balluff, and Kerri Tornow. She is the first second generation alum to be on the Seed staff. The most important thing that Awakening Seed brought her is friendships and how to be respectful. Emily is still friends with some of her classmates from the Seed. She likes working at the Seed because everyone is really friendly and exciting to be around.
Education: Emily is a 2017 high school graduate. She plans to go to college in the near future to become a teacher.
Free Time: In her free time Emily likes to be with friends, go on hikes, and eat food.
Ashley Ruiz | 1st/2nd Assistant Teacher, After School Toddler Lead
About Ashley: This is Ashley’s second year working at the Seed. She has always found joy and laughter when it comes to engaging with children. She was very young when she learned how to take care of children and their needs in education. Since then, she’s come to learn that there is no greater feeling than to see the impact you have on the kids with whom you have grow close. Ashley is very excited to be the lead in the toddler after school program and assisting in the 1st/2nd grade classroom.
Emily Cleveland | Early 3s Assistant Teacher, After School
About Emily: Emily has lived in Tempe her whole life. She discovered her passion for becoming a teacher by interning at the Seed summer art camp during the summers. As an intern, she could not wait until she was able to become a teacher.
Education: Emily graduated from Tempe Preparatory Academy in the spring of 2016 and is now attending Mesa Community College to receive her degree in early childhood development. She is thrilled to be working in the Early 3s and after school program this year!
Free time: In her free time Emily enjoys hanging out with her friends, spending time with family, going on bike rides, and hiking.
Cylie Krenkel | K-1 Assistant Teacher, After School
About Cylie: Cylie is the second oldest of nine kids, six boys and three girls. Cylie has worked with children as a daycare assistant, a nanny, and as a teacher’s assistant in a special needs classroom. This is Cylie’s second year at the Seed as the K-1 assistant and after school staff member. She is looking forward to spending time laughing and learning with the students. She is a hands-on learning who is always willing to learn and take on anything new. She enjoys teaching children as well as learning from them.
Education: Cylie is pursuing a degree in education, as she wants to become a teacher one day herself.
Free Time: In her free time Cylie enjoys camping, hiking, fishing, and spending time with family and her husband, Josh.
Lisa Gatchalian | 3rd/4th Assistant Teacher, After School
About Lisa: Lisa will continue as the assistant teacher this year in the 3rd/4th grade classroom. She worked in Major League Baseball for ten years prior to staying home with her young children. Her son, Ashton, is in the 1st/2nd grade class, and her daughter, Gwenyth, is in PreK. Lisa enjoys working with children and has worked on and off with them since she began babysitting in junior high school.
Missy Green | PreK Assistant Teacher
About her: Missy was born in Killeen, Texas, and moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, with her family when she was seven. Most of her family still resides in Texas but she does have some family in Arkansas, which is where she gets her love for the Arkansas Razorbacks. This is Missy’s third year at the Seed and in the PreK classroom. Before finding the Seed, Missy taught at Rockhouse Preschool in Flagstaff. She also worked for Universal Cheerleaders Association teaching summer cheerleading camps all over the west coast for eight years. During that time she coached cheer at Flagstaff High School. While being here at the Seed her love for teaching and education has grown and she is thankful for the opportunity to work here and with such great teachers.
Education: Missy is in the process of finishing her bachelor’s degree in early childhood/elementary education at Northern Arizona University through the distant learning program.
Free Time: In her free time you can find Missy at the gym, out exploring, or at the movies.
Helen Mendizabal | Toddler 1s Assistant Teacher
About Helen: Helen was born in Guatemala, but she’s lived in Arizona since she was seven years old. Throughout her life, Helen has worked with children in many ways, as a nanny, in infant care, and working with kids with special needs.
Education: Helen is working on her associate’s degree in early childhood education and eventually plans to pursue a B.A. in early education.
Free time: Helen enjoys reading, playing video games and spending time with her husband, Estevan, and her 17-year-old dog, Mimi.
Saki Nabeshima | Preschool 4s Assistant Teacher
About Saki: Saki unexpectedly fell in love with the world of early childhood education during a 12-month internship at a transitional housing program, offering preschool music and movement classes. Her passion for sensibly nurturing young minds and souls has developed through teaching in early childhood classrooms since 2006. This is Saki’s sixth year at the Seed.
Education: Saki received her master’s degree in theology from Valparaiso University in 2005 and her bachelor’s degree in music from Hastings College in 2002. She has received extensive training in early childhood music education from Musikgarten, 95-hour children’s yoga teacher training, and 200-hr yoga teacher training from Desert Song.
Free time: Saki finds balance in life through yoga, essential oils, and spending quality time with her husband, David.
Yolanda Ruiz | Substitute Teacher
About Yolanda: Yolanda was born and raised in Valencia, Spain and has lived in Phoenix since 2001. She speaks five languages, as many Europeans do, and loves the adventure of traveling. Yolanda has been to many places around the world, including Peru, Paris, Central America, Europe, Indonesia, Morocco, and China. This is her sixth year as a staff member and she is the parent of a Seed alum. She heard of the Seed through friends and the first things she noticed were the close relationship between the staff and students, the gardening, recycling, compost, and the respect and love of the caring teachers. Yolanda hopes to contribute to the school environment through her rich multicultural experiences.
Education: Yolanda graduated in industrial design in Valencia and has a bachelor’s degree in hotel management from University of Nevada Las Vegas. She is currently working on her Child Development Associate credential.
Free time: Yolanda enjoys cooking, skiing, organizing trips, painting, restaurants, been in the board of directors of the Giant Schnauzer Rescue, and spending time with family, friends and pets.