Faculty & Staff

Faculty & Staff



Principal Nichole Schlagel
Director of Business & Operations Shannon Gossard
Community Learning Center Site Director Hazel Velez
Office Manager Jada Kankel
Registrar/Receptionist Amanda Woods
Special Education Teacher Lauren Cole
Special Education Staff Elizabeth Bayliss(Speech); Cecilia Pivarunas (OT); Neely Harris (Psychologist)
Kindergarten Amber Hall
1st Grade Keaton Smith
1st / 2nd Grade Combo Alison Sloan
2nd Grade Caitrin Cullen
3rd Grade Dana Smith
4th Grade Eilish Poe
4th / 5th Grade Combo Emily Walters
5th Grade Kirsten Schnell
Music Teacher Lorna Floyd
Visual Arts Teacher Dianne Andrejasich
Expressions Teacher Declan Brennan
Facilities Lee Martinez
School Nurse Keri Dennison
Information Technology Scott Wilson
Community Learning Center Teachers/Interventionists Emma Erwin; Christine Thompson; Sierra Montez; Kaila DeJane;


Nichole Schlagel


Email: nschlagel@aakelementary.org

My name is Nichole Schlagel and I am honored to be the Principal at The Academy of Arts and Knowledge!

I live in Fort Collins with my family. I have been in the education world for over 25 years. I have a passion for creating educational environments that support the whole child. At AAK we personalize education to support students in reaching their personal best. I believe every student has a right to achieve at high levels. It is our responsibility to provide the necessary support to help them reach their goals. When students feel safe and secure in their learning environments they will take risks and discover their passion for learning. As a community, we will continue to work together to increase academic achievement as well as the social and emotional well-being of all of our students.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Pay Day
  • Snack Food - Salty
  • Restaurant - Anything Local
  • Fast Food - Bindle
  • Beverage - Coffee-Americano
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Chocolate
  • Type of Music - ALL!
  • Desired Books - School Improvement, Leadership, new suggestions!
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Family, Friends
  • Stores - Amazon
  • Sports Teams - N/A
  • Classroom Items - Markers and Pens
  • Non-Monetary Items - Anything hand made!
  • Other - N/A

Shannon Gossard

Director of Business & Operations

Email: sgossard@aakelementary.org

From the moment I stepped into this school, I was blown away by the amazing things that teachers do every day with their students and the amount of passion and dedication they have for each and every child they work with. Over the last eight years, I have seen immense growth in our students and witnessed them blossoming into confident and expressive students who have the ability to think critically about the world around them. I am honored to be able to support such an amazing community of staff, students, and parents.


Brandee Martin

Preschool Director

Email: bmartin@aakelementary.org

My name is Brandee Martin and I am very excited to be the Pre-Kindergarten Teacher/Director of this new program here at AAK! I have been teaching in the Early Childhood field for over ten years and I absolutely adore watching them grow and learn each and every day. I strive to make a difference in the lives of young children and value the importance of relationships.

I was born and raised in Colorado and currently living in Severance. My husband and I have two kids (8 and 4) that keep us very busy. We enjoy camping, being outdoors, sports and concerts.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Reese’s

  • Snack Food - Salt and Vinegar Chips

  • Restaurant - Blue Agave Grill

  • Fast Food - Qdoba

  • Beverage - Coffee, Dr. Pepper

  • Chocolate or Fruit - Fruit

  • Type of Music - Country

  • Desired Books -


Amanda Woods


Email: awoods@aakelementary.org

I have worked in education as a paraprofessional and an office manager for over ten years, and I would never want to work anywhere else. I love the kids and families, and I find joy in helping teachers whenever I can. I have been married for over twenty years and we have three kids together. My kids, ranging from elementary age to college, are the light of my life. They keep me on my toes and teach me something everyday. I love to cook, bake, read, craft, and hike as well as spend time relaxing with friends.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Mounds
  • Snack Food - Chips
  • Restaurant - DC Oaks
  • Fast Food - None
  • Beverage - Tea
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Chocolate
  • Type of Music - Celtic
  • Desired Books - Kids Books
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Crafting, Baking
  • Stores - Amazon
  • Sports Teams - Broncos
  • Office Type Items - Gel Pens
  • Non-Monetary Items - Cards and Pictures
  • Other - No Tree Nuts

Jada Kankel

Health Tech/Office

Email: jkankel@aakelementary.org

Both of my children are alumni of this school. I have been working here since 2009 and my heartstrings are tied to the children and staff. This school embraces students with differences and teaches them to be comfortable in their own skin. Students graduate from school with a confidence in who they are and acceptance for who others are. I greatly enjoy working with this community and I look forward to meeting new and returning students and staff in the fall.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Take 5, Peanut M & M’s
  • Snack Food - Cheese and crackers/Jerky/Trail Mix
  • Restaurant - Bindle Coffee, Fox and Crow, DC Oakes
  • Fast Food - Breakfast
  • Beverage - Whole Milk Lattes
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Both
  • Type of Music - All
  • Desired Books - Cooking and Baking
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Cooking, baking, traveling, hiking, puzzles & movies
  • Stores - Target, King Soopers, Local shops
  • Sports Teams - CSU, UNC, Hockey
  • Classroom Items - Gel pens and mechanical pencils
  • Non-Monetary Items - Notes, drawings, baked goods
  • Other - Crazy Socks, Ceramic Mugs

Lauren Cole

Special Education Teacher

Email: lcole@aakelementary.org

My name is Lauren Cole, and I am very excited to be entering my 3rd year at AAK Elementary School. I have been teaching in many capacities for over 11 years. I graduated from NM Highlands University and started my teaching career in a small rural community in New Mexico. I am originally from Colorado and have family here, so I am thrilled to be back!

We all learn differently, so I look forward to helping you grow as a learner and a positive student. Students with a disability all have an ABILITY! The number one goal in my classroom is respect, and that we will be a school family and work together. I will only ask you to work as hard as I will.

When I am not in the classroom or teaching, I love to enjoy the outdoors, especially sunflowers! I have worked on a ranch with cattle, horses, and buffalo. My two absolute favorites are my son and our black lab, Duke!

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Heath

  • Snack Food - Popcorn

  • Restaurant - King Soopers

  • Fast Food - Panera Bread

  • Beverage - Coffee

  • Chocolate or Fruit - Chocolate-Covered Blueberries

  • Type of Music - 80’s/90’s Country

  • Desired Books - Drama/Western/Crime

  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Anything Outdoors!

  • Stores - Costco

  • Sports Teams - Denver Broncos

  • Classroom Items - Pens, Post-Its, Magnets

  • Non-Monetary Items - Quotes

  • Other - N/A


Elizabeth Bayliss

Speech Pathologist

Email: ebayliss@aakelementary.org

My name is Elizabeth and I am a Speech-Language Pathologist and the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) support here at AAK. Although I am a native Oklahoman, I have lived in several states (TX, NJ, MO) throughout my journey, and I am so grateful to have landed in Fort Collins! I received my Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and completed my Master’s degree at Rockhurst University. In addition to serving as the school speech pathologist, I have the great opportunity to support our students in learning about their social emotional wellbeing. I have a passion for communication and self-advocacy. I believe every child’s “voice” is important and deserves to be heard. My mission is to provide the tools and encouragement each child needs to understand and communicate in their world, build strong interpersonal skills, and advocate for their needs. Communication is the key to connection!

In my free time, I enjoy reading, yoga, art projects, and exploring Colorado with my Blue Heeler, Buckley Blue!

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Swedish Fish

  • Snack Food - Skinny Pop Popcorn

  • Restaurant - Any Mexican food

  • Fast Food - Chipotle

  • Beverage - Kombucha

  • Chocolate or Fruit - Love both!

  • Type of Music - Folk, Indie, Blues

  • Desired Books - Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey

  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Yoga, basketball, painting, reading, hanging with my pup, live music

  • Stores - Target, Dollar Tree

  • Sports Teams - OKC Thunder

  • Classroom Items -Fidgets, Calming tools

  • Non-Monetary Items - notes, drawings, jokes!

  • Other -N/A

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Cecilia Pivarunas

Occupational Therapist

Email: cpivarunas@aakelementary.org

Dr. Pivarunas is an occupational therapist who is committed to helping students achieve their full potential. She takes a student-centric approach that combines theory and creativity to develop individual plans which deliver academic results. Dr. Pivarunas has extensive research experience in sensory processing and learning differences, and she firmly believes that every student can succeed with the right supports in place. She holds a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Originally hailing from the Windy City of Chicago, Dr. Pivarunas landed in Colorado in 2019. In her free time, you can find her spending time with her German Shorthaired Pointer, Nellie, perusing the snack aisle of Trader Joes, or finding her inner Yoda at a local yoga studio.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - 100 Grand
  • Snack Food - gluten free pretzels
  • Restaurant - Chick-Fil-A
  • Fast Food - Chick-Fil-A
  • Beverage - Diet Dr. Pepper
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Chocolate
  • Type of Music - Any Kind
  • Desired Books - Beach Reads
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Bowling, Hallmark Movies, Hiking
  • Stores - Home Goods, TJ Maxx
  • Sports Teams - N/A
  • Classroom Items - Glitter makes everything better!
  • Non-Monetary Items - Words of Affirmation
  • Other - N/A

Neely Harris

School Psychologist

Email: nharris@aakelementary.org

Hello! I am Neely Harris, the School Psychologist at AAK. I have an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. I have worked in many of the local surrounding school districts for 13+ years. I have special training for working with children on the Autism Spectrum, certifications in Art Therapy and Sand Tray Therapy, training in classroom-based restorative circles, and experience with Animal Assisted Therapy.

I am originally from Florida, but I currently live in the foothills of Loveland with my husband and two children, ages 7 and 13. We enjoy life in the woods, surrounded by nature and wildlife. We raise chickens and bees, and have a big garden. I am especially passionate about beekeeping and speaking to kids about bees in hopes of inspiring a new generation of beekeepers! I'm all about saving the bees! I am also a huge foodie, and enjoy cooking and making things from scratch. My other hobbies include canning, paddle boarding, kayaking, and skiing. I feel so blessed to have landed at AAK. Being able to use art as a modality to support mental health is so powerful!

The whole staff at AAK is so warm, collaborative, and kid-focused. I am honored to work amongst such talented and dedicated educators. Children today are facing a multitude of stressors and a significant amount of trauma like never before, indicating that mental health is currently a primary health concern for our kids. In a technologically driven and seemingly unpredictable/unstable world, with families under immense pressure, kids are experiencing alarming rates of anxiety and psychological barriers to accessing their education and experiencing a carefree childhood. Innocence seems to be gone way too soon. A close knit, trusting community (a.k.a "village") built on acceptance, belonging, true connections, and love is the only way to give them the support they need to foster resilience and thrive in this ever changing landscape they must navigate. We are asking them to do such hard things!

Kindness matters. Relationships matter. Children should feel safe, valued, and truly "seen" at school. They should all have a voice and be celebrated for their individual uniqueness. They should know and feel that everyone has a special place in the rainbow of colors that make up the human experience! Love wins!!

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Cookies
  • Snack Food - popcorn
  • Restaurant - Vatos Tacos
  • Fast Food - Big City Burrito
  • Beverage - coffee
  • Chocolate or Fruit - dark chocolate w/sea salt
  • Type of Music - various – depends on mood
  • Desired Books - The lost book of herbal remedies
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - bee keeping, gardening, skiing, cooking
  • Stores - Costco, Jax Outdoor Gear
  • Sports Teams - Broncos
  • Classroom Items - Squishy / sensory toys (kids), sand tray miniatures
  • Non-Monetary Items - Kindness, sunshine, friends
  • Other - I love cool hats (winter hats, ballcaps, etc.)

Amber Hall

Kindergarten Teacher

Email: ahall@aakelementary.org

I am beyond excited to be teaching Kindergarten at the Academy of Arts and Knowledge! This will be my third year teaching! I am a Colorado native and absolutely love anything outdoors whether that be snowboarding, hiking 14ers, paddleboarding, or running with my dog (Bentley).

I love the community AAK offers and can’t wait to welcome students and families into my classroom this 2023-2024 school year. Encouraging, supporting, and teaching children has been a lifelong passion of mine. I believe providing opportunities for children to strive, develop, learn, and grow is essential within a classroom setting. We are going to have such an amazing and fantastic year!

Favorite Things:

    • Candy Bar - Butterfinger, Twix

    • Snack Food - Doritos, Hot Lime Cheetos, Cheez-Its Duoz

    • Restaurant - Mod Market, King Soopers

    • Fast Food - Canes

    • Beverage - Caramel Macchiato, Dirty Chai Latte

    • Chocolate or Fruit - Berries, Caramel Chocolate

    • Type of Music - County

    • Desired Books - Informational Habitat Books (Forest, Arctic, Ocean, Desert), Rhyming Books, There was an Old Lady Series

    • Entertainment/Hobbies - Snowboarding, Hiking

    • Stores - Amazon, Target, Costco

    • Sports Teams- Rockies, Avs

    • Classroom Items - White boards, clip boards, healthy snacks, clothespins, washable markers, paper mate felt tip pens, laminating sheets, cardstock colored paper, playdough

    • Non-Monetary Items - N/A


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Keaton Smith

First Grade Teacher

Email: ksmith@aakelementary.org

This year will be my 8th year as an educator at AAK! I strive to foster a

creative, engaging, and safe learning environment here in first grade. One of

my favorite perks of this job is watching the students grow, not only in

education but also in their confidence in themselves as creative individuals. I

love working alongside educators who are here to make learning feel unique,

positive, and enjoyable.

In my free time, I am usually playing video games, dancing around my house,

spending quality time with friends, or up in Wyoming visiting family.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Crunch
  • Snack Food - Chips & Queso/Salsa
  • Restaurant - Music City Hot Chicken
  • Fast Food - Qdoba
  • Beverage - Non Caffeinated Tea, Emergen-C
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Apples, Bananas, Dried Mango
  • Type of Music - Lady Gaga, Lights, Bastille
  • Desired Books - Children’s stories, Young Chapter Books for kids
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Journals, Creative Things, Video Games
  • Stores - Target and Walmart
  • Sports Teams - Wyoming Cowboys
  • Classroom Items - Cardstock, Laminate, Staples, Tape
  • Non-Monetary Items - Classroom Artwork


Angela Heckart

First Grade Teacher

Email: aheckart@aakelementary.org

Hello! My name is Mrs. Heckart and I am very excited to be teaching First Grade at AAK! I am originally from Iowa (Go Hawkeyes!!) and moved to Denver 18 years ago with my husband. My family and I have been in Fort Collins for the past 6 years and we absolutely love it!! I received my BA in Art from the University of Iowa and completed my Master’s Degree from the University of Denver. I began my teaching journey as a Pre-K teacher and have been teaching for 14 years. 🙂 I have taught Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, Gifted and Talented and a Literacy Teacher.

I am caring and creative with a solid commitment to supporting the whole child and their social-emotional development. I go above and beyond to ensure my students have a blast learning, feel included, loved, supported, and given the opportunity to shine and to perform at their fullest potential.

I feel blessed to have the opportunity to bring together my love for teaching and my passion for art at our wonderful school! I absolutely love teaching and the relationships I have built with my students and the amazing, supportive staff here at AAK!

  • Candy Bar - Licorice, Peanut Butter Cups

  • Snack Food - Cereal, pretzels

  • Restaurant - DC Oaks, Suehiro

  • Fast Food - Panera

  • Beverage - Coffee, Sparkling water

  • Chocolate or Fruit - I love ALL fruit, Dove chocolate

  • Type of Music - PoP, Indie

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Caitrin Cullen

Second Grade Teacher

Email: ccullen@aakelementary.org

This is my third year teaching Second Grade at our amazing school! I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado for college. I enjoy all that Colorado has to offer, from skiing to hiking to boating on Horsetooth Reservoir. In my free time I love singing, dancing, reading books and traveling. I am excited to create a community in our Second Grade class full of learning, fun, laughter, and hard work. It will be a fun school year!

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar: Snickers

  • Snack Food: Chips

  • Restaurant: Mojeaux, Restaurant 415, Music City Hot Chicken

  • Fast Food: Chipotle, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts

  • Beverage: Coffee, Tea

  • Chocolate or Fruit: Any Chocolate or Fruit

  • Type of Music: Queen, Wilco, Bob Dylan, The Beatles

  • Desired Books: Non Fiction, Adventure Books

  • Entertainment/Hobbies: Skiing, Hiking, Traveling, Reading

  • Stores: Target, Knowledge Bound, Amazon

  • Sports Teams: Baltimore Ravens

  • Classroom Items: Wobble Chairs, Books, Erasers

  • Non-Monetary Items: Poems, Handmade Gifts from Students

  • Other: I love student notes, crafts, and pictures!

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Gloria Hyde

Second Grade Teacher

Email: ghyde@aakelementary.org

Hello Fellow Dragons,

My name is Gloria Hyde and I am beyond excited to be a teacher at AAK . I have three children who I love to spend my time with in my freetime. Together with my husband, we love to explore our land, go hiking, play board games, and laugh about silly stories. We have two beautiful dogs, three barn cats, and two bee colonies. Moving from Delaware to Colorado two years ago has been a dream come true for our family. I am originally from Germany and I can’t wait to teach my students all about European culture.

This will be my third year of teaching. I have taught Kindergarten, Literacy Intervention, and Second Grade. I believe that a positive student teacher relationship is imperative to learning success and know that every child has the potential to grow in their own way and at their own pace. My goal is to build a strong classroom community that my students are excited to be a part of every day. Each childhood is precious and I am determined to help shape positive memories for all of my students.

I am sure we will have a wonderful year!! Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns!

Warm regards,

Mrs. Hyde

Favorite Things

  • Snack Food - pretzels, pumpkin seeds

  • Restaurant - any

  • Fast Food - Panera Bread

  • Beverage - coffee

  • Chocolate or Fruit - dark chocolate

  • Type of Music - reggae, ska

  • Desired Books - fiction, history

  • Entertainment/Hobbies - kickboxing, hiking, guitar playing, reading

  • Stores - Sam's Club, Arc


Dana Smith

Third Grade Teacher

Email: dsmith@aakelementary.org

Hey y’all! I’m Dana Smith, and I am so thrilled to be teaching third grade at AAK. I love learning new things and believe that if you’re not learning, you’re not living! I’m so grateful I get to share that passion with my students every day and help them reach their full potential. I was born and raised in Mississippi and now live in Fort Collins with my husband Brad, our dog Sadie, and our cat Hannah. I enjoy reading, playing video games, writing, hiking, and camping.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Chocolate!, KitKat, Twix, Ghirardelli
  • Snack Food - Crunchy Cheetos
  • Restaurant - Sushi
  • Fast Food - Chick-Fil-A
  • Beverage - Starbucks, Dutch Bros.
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Both!
  • Type of Music - Pop, Rock, and everything 90s
  • Desired Books - Almost anything, history, motivational, fiction, biographies
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Reading, video games, writing, hiking
  • Stores - Target, Amazon, Dollar Tree
  • Sports Teams - Olympic gymnastics and figure skating
  • Classroom Items - Mini Erasers, children’s books, lemon theme
  • Non-Monetary Items - Sweet notes and pictures!
  • Other - Favs: green, cats, dogs, health & wellness

Kaila DeJane

Third Grade Teacher

Email: kdejane@aakelementary.org

Hey there!! I'm Kaila De Jane and I am so delighted to be teaching third grade here at AAK. I am looking forward to all of the fun and exciting things we are going to learn. Collaboration and creativity are key aspects in my classroom, and I look forward to helping my students grow each day. I was born in California but spent most of my life in Colorado and live locally. In my free time, I enjoy crafting, listening to podcasts, riding Harleys and spending time with friends and family. My favorite thing about AAK is the pure love I receive from staff and every single student I come into contact with. It is truly magical to build a relationship with students and help them develop and achieve their fullest potential.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Kit Kat

  • Snack Food - Goldfish

  • Restaurant - Old Chicago

  • Fast Food - McDonald’s

  • Beverage - Coffee

  • Chocolate or Fruit - Chocolate

  • Type of Music - All Music

  • Desired Books - Historical Fiction, Crime, Biographies

  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Riding Motorcycles

  • Stores - Target/Wal Mart

  • Sports Teams - Colorado Eagles

  • Classroom Items - Highlighters

  • Non-Monetary Items - Birthday Off

  • Other - N/A


Emily Walters

Fifth Grade Teacher

Email: ewalters@aakelementary.org

My teaching philosophy is very student centered. The classroom community and culture is extremely important to my student's learning. I believe that the emotional well being of the child always comes first before learning. Each student is unique and has different needs that must be met. Once those needs are being met, I like the students to take control of their own learning with guidance from myself and other students. I set each student to high standards because I know every single one of them can reach their goals if they try. I believe that learning starts at home and goes beyond the classroom. This is why I love doing Project Based Learning in my teachings.

In my free time I love to go to shows and do anything outdoors! I love going camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, snowboarding, and hanging out with my dog, Tucker! I mostly grew up in Colorado Springs, but have lived in 5 other states growing up. The things that I love here at AAK are, the amazing community it has here, the endless opportunities for PBL's, and working with such an incredible team.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Snickers or Twix

  • Snack Food - Cool Ranch Doritos, Beef Jerky

  • Restaurant - Anything local

  • Fast Food - Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, In n Out,

  • Beverage - Dr Pepper

  • Chocolate or Fruit - mango, banana, strawberry

  • Type of Music - EDM, folk, indie pop

  • Desired Books - historical fiction, horror, crime

  • Entertainment/Hobbies - guitar, drums, hiking, camping, fishing, concerts

  • Stores - Vans, Target, Ragstock,

  • Sports Teams - Saints, Rockies, Avs, Wyoming Cowboys

  • Classroom Items - Sharpies, laminator

  • Non-Monetary Items - Homemade crafts

  • Other - My favorite animals are bats


Lorna Floyd

Music Teacher

Email: lfloyd@aakelementary.org

Hello, I’m Lorna Floyd! I have been the AAK music teacher since the fall of 2010 and I absolutely love this school and I am honored to be part of your child’s musical journey. Our music program meets and exceeds the Colorado State Music Standards in a unique way–by offering an elementary instrumental program! We have so much talent in this school and I am sooo proud of the students’ progress on their instruments.

When I am not in my classroom I’m in my many gardens with my husband and two little dogs or making my own music! I play alto saxophone with the funk band Archie Funker and clarinet and vocals in my own ensemble, Lorna’s Swingset. Look us up and come to one of our many public family-friendly performances. I’d love to see you there.

These are a few of my Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Chocolate!!!

  • Snack Food - Little crackers

  • Restaurant - Blue Bird Café

  • Fast Food - Jason’s Deli

  • Beverage - Hazelnut latte

  • Chocolate or Fruit - Chocolate, yes! Fruit, yes! Just not together!

  • Type of Music - Jazz, klezmer, classical

  • Desired Books - Historical Fiction

  • Entertainment/Hobbies - plants, reading, kayaking

  • Stores - Target

  • Sports Teams - None

  • Classroom Items - Fun pens! Little pads of paper

  • Non-Monetary Items - Handmade cards and notes

  • Other - N/A


Eilish Poe

Art Teacher

Email: epoe@aakelementary.org

Hi y’all! My name is Eilish Poe and I am ecstatic to be the Art Teacher at AAK! This is my 5th year at this incredible school, and I am just as excited to be here as I was when I first started! I am really looking forward to bringing some new ideas to our Art Program such as collage, textiles, photography, and different movements in art history! I firmly believe that relationships come first when it comes to education. Making those strong bonds with the students is my first priority! I know that all of the teachers at AAK share that philosophy, and that is why AAK is a wonderfully unique school! I feel so fortunate to be a part of this community.

A little bit about myself: I grew up in Texas, but have lived in Colorado for the last 8 years. When I’m not teaching, I love to read, paint, go to the movies, rock climb, and just be active. I absolutely love thrift shopping and fashion. Growing up, I was taught how to sew at a young age and fell in love with giving clothes a new life! I can’t wait to share this knowledge with your student(s)! Lastly, we have an adorable bunny named Boomer with us in the Art Room and we are both ready to meet everyone!

Staff Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - I love pretty much all candy!

  • Snack Food - Chex mix and popcorn

  • Restaurant - Vato’s tacos, Torchy’s tacos, Blind Pig

  • Fast Food - Chipotle

  • Beverage - Any flavor of Poppi or Olipop soda

  • Chocolate or Fruit - Chocolate, always!

  • Type of Music - 1970’s rock, 2000’s punk, and Taylor Swift

  • Desired Books - Any type of art classroom book!

  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Biking, hiking, rock climbing, tennis, oil painting, going to the movies, and thrifting!!!

  • Stores - Target, Michael’s, Amazon

  • Sports Teams - CSU Rams, Team USA Volleyball, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Broncos

  • Classroom Items - Fabrics, string, paint samples, laminate sheets

  • Non-Monetary Items - Pictures of us and your incredible artwork

  • Other - Favs: Flamingos, flowers/mushrooms, Harry Potter, 1970’s decorations


Hazel Velez

Expressions Teacher

Email: hvelez@aakelementary.org

My name is Hazel and I am the Expressions Teacher at AAK. I’ve been working with children since the age of 14 and love being able to celebrate and support every child where they are at and watch them grow! If I’m not at work you can find me rock climbing, backpacking, kayaking, thrifting, or reading. I believe that learning goes beyond the classroom and isn’t limited to just kids. I look forward to all the exciting memories and opportunities we will build here at AAK and contribute to the incredibly loving and positive community that this school provides.

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Snickers/Sour Patch Kids
  • Snack Food - Fun Yuns/Hummus
  • Restaurant - Local Restaurants
  • Fast Food - Chik-Fil-A
  • Beverage - Kombucha
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Grapes
  • Type of Music - All Kinds
  • Desired Books - All Kinds
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Biking/Rock Climbing/Back Packing
  • Stores - T.J. Maxx / Target
  • Sports Teams - FSU / BUCS / Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Classroom Items - Colorful Pens
  • Non-Monetary Items - Cards and heart felt DIY’s
  • Other - I love plants

Lee Martinez


Email: facilities@aakelementary.org

In my spare time, I like to go bowling and spend time with family and friends. I love to work on cars, listen to music and watch movies.

I love my job and like all the students. The teachers make my job so fun!


Scott Wilson

Information Technology

Email: swilson@aakelementary.org


Olivia Black

AAK Support Staff/CLC Educator

Email: oblack@aakelementary.org

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Dark Chocolate
  • Snack Food - Goldfish
  • Restaurant - Fuzzy's
  • Fast Food - Chick-fil-a
  • Beverage - coke
  • Chocolate or Fruit - dark or mangoes
  • Type of Music - all kinds
  • Desired Books - crime/adventure
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - coloring
  • Stores - Target
  • Sports Teams - cardinals (baseball) blues (hockey)
  • Classroom Items - Pens


Christine Thompson

CLC Lead

Email: cthompson@aakelementary.org

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Hershey’s Chocolate
  • Snack Food - Fruits
  • Restaurant - All
  • Fast Food - Cane’s Chicken
  • Beverage - Water
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Fruit
  • Type of Music - Conscious Music
  • Desired Books - The older the book the better
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - N/A
  • Stores - N/A
  • Sports Teams - Gaga ball AAK Dragons
  • Classroom Items - N/A
  • Non-Monetary Items - N/A
  • Other - N/A

Sierra Montez

AAK Support Staff

Email: smontez@aakelementary.org

Favorite Things:

  • Candy Bar - Hershey’s Cookies & Cream
  • Snack Food - Gardetto’s/Fruit Snacks
  • Restaurant - Anything Fort Collins Local
  • Fast Food - Wendy’s/Dutch Bros.
  • Beverage - Coffee/Smoothies
  • Chocolate or Fruit - Fruit
  • Type of Music - Disney & Dancing Music
  • Desired Books - Fantasy/Adventure/Dr. Suess
  • Entertainment/Hobbies - Hiking/Paddleboarding/Reading
  • Stores - 2nd & Charles/Barnes & Nobles
  • Sports Teams - All Denver Teams & Iowa Hawkeyes
  • Classroom Items - Pens / Stickers
  • Non-Monetary Items - Words of Encouragement
  • Other - N/A

Expect More From Your Elementary School