Meet the faculty & staff at awakening seed school
Ashley Ruiz | Toddler 1s Lead Teacher, After School
About Ashley: This is Ashley’s fifth 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 teacher in the Toddler 1s class, as well as help out at the front desk after school.
Darlene Cardon | Toddler 1s Lead Teacher Sub
Emily Cleveland | Toddler 2s Lead Teacher
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 leading the Toddler 2s again 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.
Bianca Lopez | Early 3s Lead Teacher
About Bianca: Bianca was born in California and raised in Arizona. She grew up in Tempe with her mom, dad, two sisters, and brother. She is the oldest of four. As a child she was quiet, enjoyed collecting stickers, and loved creating crafts with her mother in the hot Arizona summers. Bianca lives in Mesa with her husband, Shayne and their two-year-old son Zion.
This is Bianca’s second year as lead teacher in the Early 3s class, and has worked in a public school setting for twelve years. She first discovered the Seed as an intern from Northern Arizona University, and interned in the Preschool 4s class. She fell in love with the Seed almost instantly.
Education: Bianca graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2018. She has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a certification for early childhood education.
Free time: On the weekend you can find Bianca trying new recipes, creating another Pinterest craft project, and decorating her planner.
Missy Green | Preschool 3s Lead 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 sixth year at the Seed and her third as a lead teacher. She spent three years as the PreK classroom assistant. 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.
Deb Hopkins | Preschool 4s Lead Teacher
This is Deb’s 15th year as lead teacher in the Preschool 4s class. Her career at the Seed began the winter of 2004 when she was persuaded to assist in Mary Glover’s 4th/5th grade class. Her life at the Seed began when her children were young. Her son Hayden (age 19) and daughter Hannah (age 21), both proud Seed graduates, first attended the toddler class at age two, have worked at the Seed as summer interns and, her daughter Hannah was hired as an after school staff member in 2017. In her former life, Deb worked as curator for many years at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art where she planned, organized and curated exhibitions and wrote about art and contemporary artists such as James Turrell, Wolfgang Laib and others. Deb’s art background influences her multi-disciplinary approach to teaching, at times turning the classroom into an immersive experience. Over the years, the preschoolers have delved into an array of subjects including the Middle Ages, food and culture of the world, the Ice Age, the Amazon rainforest, space, and dinosaurs. The Seed is her family’s second home.
Education: Deb earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of Arizona and has taught paper-making, book binding and photography to children and adults.
Free time: Deb has a passion for cooking, gardening, art, photography and yoga. She’s slowly learning how to play the guitar!
Mindy Bender-Webster | PreK Lead Teacher
About Mindy: Mindy, a native Arizonan, has always had a passion for working with children. At fifteen, she was an assistant teacher at her family’s dance studio and by eighteen was teaching and choreographing for her own dance classes. In 2003, as a senior at Mountain Pointe High School, she volunteered her afternoons working in classrooms at an elementary school. Over the next few years Mindy continued her hands-on training as a classroom assistant at The Chrysalis Academy, a private school for children with autism. In 2009, she became a certified yoga instructor and in 2010 started her journey at the Seed teaching physical education. She has since been the toddler after school lead, assistant in the Toddler 2s, Preschool 2.5/3s lead and is now the PreK lead teacher.
Education: Mindy holds a Child Development Associate credential through the Care Courses program.
Free Time: In her free time Mindy likes to spend time with her husband Alex and son Easton.
Kerri Tornow | Kindergarten Lead Teacher
About Kerri: Kerri, who grew up in Michigan, is the Kindergarten teacher. She has been part of the Seed staff since 1984. Kerri has many years of experience working with preschoolers through 2nd graders at the Seed. She also teaches art at the Seed summer camp. Kerri enjoys children’s art and literature. Her focus is on providing a safe, happy classroom environment in which young children can explore their world and influence their own learning with rich oral expression, creative opportunities, purposeful experiences and strong social connections to their peers and teachers.
Education: Kerri graduated from ASU with a degree in art education and has an Arizona elementary certification with an early childhood endorsement.
Free time: Kerri is married to Roger. They have two sons, Andrew and Aaron. Andrew works in the field of graphic design. Aaron studied kinesiology and now works as a physical therapy technician. Both boys started their educations as Seed preschoolers and graduated from ASU. Kerri loves to draw and create crafts, as well as camp, canoe, hike and travel with her boys and their dogs.
Gabbi Horst | 1st/2nd Grade Lead Teacher
About Gabbi: Gabbi is an Arizona native who grew up camping in the pines or at the lake most weekends. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher but felt that she finally found her true passion once she discovered the Seed. She feels fortunate to have found a school that provides such rich learning opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. She finds joy in working with children, watching them learn and grow. She is inspired by their honest and open minds that are full of infinite creativity and possibility. She looks forward to continuing work and play alongside children throughout their learning experiences.
Education: Gabbi earned her Associates in Arts from Mesa Community College in 2014 along with an Arizona General Education Certificate. She graduated from Northern Arizona University in December of 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and an early childhood endorsement. She joined the Seed staff in 2017 as a teaching assistant, then assumed the lead position with the Early 3s in January 2018, before becoming the lead teacher for the 1st/2nd grade class.
Free Time: Gabbi enjoys traveling, camping, being outdoors, reading, and spending time with loved ones. She is married to her husband, Justin. They love playing with their rescue pup, Tucker, going on big road trips over the summers, and having game nights with family and friends.
Kate Owensby | 3rd/4th Grade Lead Teacher
Kate is an Arizona native, born and raised in Prescott. She lived in Tucson, San Francisco, and Chicago (where she met her husband Jason), before moving back to Arizona to begin her teaching career in 2010. Kate’s life has always involved taking care of children and naturally evolved into a career in education. She taught kindergarten for two years, pre-kindergarten for three years, and privately tutored five students (third through ninth graders), in the last several years. Kate and Jason have two boys who are students at the Seed: Walker (Kindergarten) and Griffin (Early 3s). She loves fostering a love of learning by embracing each child’s unique learning style, enjoys working collaboratively with parents, and strives to help students develop a sense of confidence and commitment to growth in the classroom.
Education: Kate graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Spanish. She earned her M.Ed. from Grand Canyon University in Educational Leadership. She holds a valid teaching certificate in Arizona.
Free time: Kate enjoys trying new restaurants, spending time with family, taking weekend trips to Prescott, reading, and enjoying time outdoors.
Stephanie Peyton | Resource Coordinator
About Stephanie: Stephanie has worked at the Seed for twenty years and has been the resource coordinator for twelve years. She also has a wide range of experience teaching almost all of our grade levels. Stephanie has done extensive work with special needs children, especially those with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and visual impairment. She has presented her classroom model at several conferences sponsored by the Arizona Department of Education and works with the Seed teachers to support classroom management and work modifications for students with special needs. She has taught special education classes at ASU for pre-service teachers. She also serves on the board for the Foundation for Blind Children.
Education: Stephanie has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education focusing on curriculum and instruction. She is an Arizona certified teacher.
Free time: Stephanie and her husband, Justin, have three daughters. Sarah Beth, their oldest, is in the 7th grade at Echo Canyon Elementary School in the Life Skills Program and Hillary is in 3rd grade at the Seed. Their youngest, Catherine, is also at the Seed in the Kindergarten class.