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Elizabeth (Betsy) Wilson

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Email: Betsy.Wilson@Heritageha.org

I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a Colorado Teaching License K‐6. As a highly qualified teacher, my teaching experience includes my most recent position at North Star Academy as the Kindergarten Reading Teacher and RTI support (K‐2nd). Other teaching experience in Douglas and Elizabeth C‐1 School Districts include reading and writing intervention, interim kindergarten teacher, and substitute teaching (K‐5, Title I, SPED, Technology, P. E. and Art). Prior to working as an educator, I had a long career as a designer and project manager for an engineering firm.

I grew up in Colorado, and raised my family near the Elizabeth/Parker area. My personal interests are spending time with my family, camping, cycling, science, architecture, Art, national and international travel.

Marah Merrill

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Email: Marah.Merrill@Heritageha.org

Hello HHA family!  My name is Marah Merrill and I am honored to be working with our kindergarten students this year.  After graduating from Colorado Christian University in 1997, I began my teaching career and have enjoyed working in the classroom, online, and with home school families.  I have taught students from Kindergarten to 6th grade and had the privilege of schooling my own children at home during their middle school years.  My husband and I live in Parker and have been blessed with four amazing children.  Away from school, you'll find me cheering in the stands, playing games, watching movies, and finding as many ways as I can to spend time with my family.  Add in our dog, cat, fish, and turtles, and our family is complete.  I am excited for a new year of learning and growing with our kindergarten students! 

Lakshmi Paladagu

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Hi! I am Lakshmi Paladagu, Kindergarten teacher.
My classroom management style is to have fun while learning with Love and Logic. I believe in building strong academic foundation and positive behavior when they are young and help them feel happy about achieving their milestones. This leaves them with happy memories of learning which will indeed lead them to be happy life-long learners. It is so fascinating to know that their brains are like sponges and when you pour some love and teaching into them, they keep absorbing. I grew up around different cultures and traditions. So I understand and come up with different ways to teach kids and I enjoy doing it.

I was born in Saudi Arabia and studied there until my 7th grade. Then I moved to India to continue my studies till my Bachelors. I completed my Master’s degree in Electrical and Electronics at City University of New York. After I got married, I lived in Seattle for 5 years with my husband and kids and moved to Colorado in 2015. I am a proud mother of two kids, ages 6 and 4. My son studies here at HHA (1st grade). I’ve been happy to be a part of HHA since the day it started. I volunteered in the kindergarten classroom for reading groups for a year and this is my first year of teaching at HHA. I am very excited to join the HHA team.

I spend lot of my time with my kids taking them to libraries, classes, sports or just playing in our backyard. I enjoy teaching my kids and engaging them in different interactive games and activities. I love history. It interests me to know about how things evolved from the past through present. I learn in the process of educating my kids. I love to go for long drives, travel to other places, organize things, being outdoors, learning new languages and enjoy being with my family and kids.

Kat McAuley

1st Grade
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Email: Kat.McAuley@Heritageha.org

Hi! My name is Kat McAuley. I will be one of the 1st grade teachers at Heritage Heights Academy! This will be my first official year teaching, though I have worked with kids in all sorts of settings for years. I moved to Colorado in the summer of 2015 with my husband and dog from New Jersey and absolutely love it here! I have a Bachelors in Sociology with a Elementary teaching certificate. Before I went to college, I volunteered overseas in Nepal and Ghana, teaching kids English. After I graduated college, I moved to Europe and worked in an international preschool. I have been working in an elementary school in Denver for the past year as a Paraprofessional. I enjoy being outside, rock‐climbing, skiing and horseback riding. I am super excited to be a part of a brand new school and look forward to meeting everyone!


Katherine Phelps

1st Grade
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Email: Katherine.Phelps@Heritageha.org

Hello! My name is Katherine Phelps and I am so excited to be teaching First Grade this year!
I am a graduate from the University of Northern Colorado-Center for Urban Education Program. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Endorsement. Throughout college I worked in a Kindergarten classroom as a paraprofessional, and student taught in Kindergarten as well. I also worked for a company called Varsity Tutors and tutored students in grades K-5 in reading and math.  I could not be more excited to be teaching First Grade this year!
I am a Colorado native and love this beautiful state. I take any chance I can to spend some time outdoors. I love hiking, camping, kayaking, and running in every wonderful place this state has to offer. Every once in a while I challenge myself to learn something new. The most recent activity I chose is tennis—I’m still getting the hang of it. While the outdoors do take up most of my free time, I also enjoy reading, painting, and going to museums. The Art museum and Museum of Nature and Science are my personal favorites!

I have had a passion for teaching my entire life and am so excited to turn my dreams into a reality this year!

Masha Carlson

2nd Grade
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Email: Masha.Carlson@Heritageha.org

Masha (Mariya) Carlson is originally from St. Petersburg, Russia before moving to California when she was 11 years old. Prior to moving to Colorado with her husband in 2014 Masha obtained her Bachelor's Degree and Teaching Credential from California State University - Fullerton where she gained valuable elementary school experience in a variety of grades. Since relocating to Colorado Masha has been working in early childhood education. Masha enjoys spending time with her husband exploring Colorado, traveling around the world, watching movies and reading. Masha is a first year teacher at Heritage Heights Academy and is looking forward to teaching 2nd graders.

Susan Steranka

2nd Grade
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Email: Susan.Steranka@Heritageha.org

My name is Susan Steranka, and I am so excited to be part of the HHA team!

I have been an educator for more than ten years and have a strong background teaching the Core Knowledge curriculum. I earned my Bachelor of Arts from the American College of the Applied Arts in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England. Subsequently, I worked on my Masters of Early Childhood Education from Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland. I taught 2 years at Legacy Academy charter school and 5 years at Parker Core Knowledge charter school. I have been married to my husband John for 33 years and have four grown children and two grandchildren. I live in Parker, Colorado and a member of Ave Maria Catholic Church. I enjoy traveling, hiking in the outdoors, and spending quality time with my family who reside in Colorado.

Lisa Driver

3rd Grade
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Email: Lisa.Driver@Heritageha.org


Welcome to a new school year at Heritage Heights Academy! My name is Lisa Driver and I will be teaching third grade this year. A native Coloradoan, I grew up in Aurora and graduated from Overland High School. I spent my college years at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. I graduated from there with a major in Humanities and a minor in Elementary Education. My husband and I just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary this summer. We currently live in Denver with our two children. As a family, we enjoy all the outdoor activities Colorado offers (camping, boating, biking, hiking, skiing). In my free time, I really like to get lost in a book. Mysteries are my favorite, but I like to read non-fiction too.

My career as a teacher began in 1997 after graduating from college. I was a substitute teacher for various front range school districts. In 1999, I began my teaching career at Kiowa Elementary School in Kiowa, Colorado. I taught there for ten years. I taught fifth grade for five years and then moved to second grade where I taught for another five years. I left teaching for a few years to focus on raising my family, but I always knew I’d return to the classroom. This past fall I began teaching again as a guest teacher for Denver Public Schools. I’m excited to be a part of Heritage Heights Academy.

Jen Winters

4th Grade
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Email: Jennifer.Winters@Heritageha.org

After many years in healthcare management, I chose to follow my lifelong dream of becoming an educator. I’ve served in many educational capacities throughout the last 8 years from before and after care to tutoring as well as substitute teaching. I completed my Alternative Licensure Program as a first-grade intern at Garland Country Day School in Denver and last year was a Resource Teacher in Parker before joining the HHA as a 4th grade teacher this year. My undergraduate degree is in Social Work and my Master’s Degree is in Long-Term Care Management.  I’ve also completed Master’s level educational courses from DU that have prepared me for my new role in education.

Originally from South Dakota, my husband and I moved to Colorado 18 years ago.  We have 2 children (a teen and tween) that keep us busy! I enjoy scrapbooking, writing novels, gardening, and am an outdoor enthusiast-especially fly-fishing, and thoroughly enjoy spending time with family and friends.

I firmly believe in George Evans quote, “Every child can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way” and really attempt to understand my students’ needs so that they can be successful academically and socially.

Rachel Smith

5th / 6th Grade
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Email: Rachel.Smith@Heritageha.org

Hello, my name is Rachel Smith and I am ecstatic to be the new 5th and 6th grade teacher at Heritage Heights Academy. Although Colorado has always been my home, Denver is quite new to me. I am originally from Cedaredge, CO, a very small town on the Western Slope. During my college years, I studied piano performance for two years in California before realizing that there was no greater profession than education. I completed my Elementary Education degree from Colorado Mesa University. Upon graduating, I taught 1st grade at a Title 1 school, and then 6th grade for three years at Caprock Academy in Grand Junction, CO. I feel that both of these experiences have shaped who I am as an educator and have fueled my passion to teach.

In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, swimming, biking, watching movies, and traveling. I have spent time in Canada and European countries and find other cultures fascinating. I believe that travelling enlightens one’s world-view and enables one to connect with others. When I am not daydreaming about traveling, I have my nose in a YA lit book. My students have always inspired me to read the books that interest them and I have found some golden-nuggets as a result. Reading is my passion, and I enjoy discussing literature with others. I am looking forward to a great year at HHA!

Jenna Youmans

6th Grade
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Email: Jenna.Youmans@Heritageha.org
My name is Jenna Youmans and I am so excited to be teaching at 6th grade at HHA. I am originally from Whittier, California. I attended college at Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas where I received my degree in Secondary Education teaching both math and science. After college I moved to Aurora where I have been teaching the last 18 years where I taught both 6th and 7th grade math and science.

When I am not at work, I am spending time watching my two sons play sports, ride their bikes, swim or just be silly. On the rare occasion that I have nothing to do, I love to fill my time quilting. During the summer, my husband and I enjoy taking the boys camping and showing them the beauty of our world.

Jeff Wallace

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Email: Jeff.Wallace@Heritageha.org
Salve! My name is Jeff Wallace and I have the joy and privilege of teaching Latin this year. I grew up in Colorado going to Cherry Creek High School before earning my Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics from Grinnell College. After graduating, I stayed at Grinnell College for a year as an assistant soccer coach while also coaching at the town’s high school. I then had the opportunity of playing and coaching semi-professional soccer in Spokane, WA, where I spent seven years before moving back to Colorado in 2015 to begin my teaching career at Denver Street School. Throughout the years I have tutored elementary through college students, across a variety subjects, from Latin to Calculus. When working with kids, I love being a part of the light bulb moments, those times when the student moves from confusion to understanding. When not teaching, I am spending time with my 3 children, reading, playing board games, or “writing the next great American novel.”

Jason Baldwin

Physical Education
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Email: Jason.Baldwin@Heritageha.org
I’m Jason Baldwin, the new Physical Education teacher. I graduated from the University of
Northern Colorado in 2006 and have worked just about every job from maintenance to front
desk to security to teacher over the past ten years. I’ve taught in Lake Havasu, Arizona and
back here in Aurora. I like running and jumping and climbing and moving and I do my best to get my students as excited about these things as I am. At home I run obstacle course races and go to hockey games.

Vanessa Young

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Email: Vanessa.Young@Heritageha.org
Ms. Young is incredibly excited to be teaching Art at Heritage Heights Academy! She has been working with children since 2005. She has experience teaching children 18 months to 18 years old, but she has a special place in her heart for elementary students! She realized her love for art in first grade and has been exploring the arts ever since! She earned her B.A. in Art Education K-12 from the University of Northern Colorado. One of the things she loves most about teaching art is giving students the opportunity to express themselves.

Susan Hodge

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Email: Susan.Hodge@Heritageha.org
My name is Susan Hodge. I am very happy to be part of the opening team at Heritage Heights Academy. I will be teaching Music to the students at HHA and will also serve as the lead teacher to provide assistance for classroom teachers when needed.

I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of east Tennessee. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and continued on to add a Master’s degree in Elementary Teaching and a certificate to teach high school mathematics, English, and science. I became Highly Qualified in Music, because music has been a lifelong passion, and through Core Knowledge Music, I can teach much more than just singing to the students.

My family and I love living in Colorado. My husband, Kevin, works in college planning. Our two girls are teenagers, one in college and the other in high school. Both of the girls attended a Core Knowledge school and would express great satisfaction with their early education. I also taught in a Core Knowledge school as a math teacher, 4th grade teacher, and music teacher.

My teaching experience has been deep and wide. Beginning in the state of Tennessee and living in six other states, I have worked with children in some capacity a number of years that is hard to admit. From summer camps to children’s librarian, preschool teacher to 8th grade music teacher, dance teacher to vocal coach, I’ve had wonderful experiences with children wherever I’ve lived.

I am truly looking forward to bringing music into each classroom at Heritage Heights Academy. I also look forward to getting to know the children and their families as we embark on the adventure of opening our new school together.