Meet the Highlands Elementary Staff

Building rendering of Elementary 28 with students outside gathering and blue sky overhead

Meet the Highlands Elementary Staff

Photo of Ryan Ball, Principal of Highlands Elementary
Ryan Ball

Principal of Highlands Elementary School

Over the past two decades, Ryan Ball has served in public education as an elementary teacher, dean of students, and principal. For the past 17 years, Principal Ball has served as the principal of St. Vrain’s Eagle Crest Elementary in Longmont, Colorado.

He strongly believes that the key to a successful school is inspiring every child to achieve their highest potential and that inspired and confident children will be better prepared for success in school and beyond. He is excited to continue to serve in education as Principal of Highlands Elementary, where students will have access to quality educational opportunities within a state-of-the-art facility.

Hannah Boyd
Hannah Boyd

Third Grade Teacher

I’m so excited to be a part of the leadership team for Highlands Elementary! I am from Iowa and currently teach fourth grade in West Liberty, Iowa.

I have been an elementary teacher for the last six years in second, third, and fourth. I am very passionate about my students and creating learning environments that allow them to explore and ask questions, grow, and succeed at their own pace.

Personally, I have lived in Iowa City, Iowa for the last ten years and plan on moving to the area this summer! I love reading, cooking, caring for my plants, and spending time with my friends and family. I have an Olde English Bulldogge, whose name is Dexter. He is three years old and spoiled rotten!

I’m so excited to be joining the St. Vrain district and the Erie community!

Jennifer Connors
Jennifer Connors

Second Grade Teacher

I am thrilled to be a member of this amazing new school community. Meeting students where they are and providing them with the tools that they need to tackle challenges and experience success in school is why I show up every day. I cannot wait to continue helping students grow into amazing humans at this new school.

I grew up outside of Syracuse, New York. After I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, I was looking for some sunshine. So, I packed up my car and moved to Colorado to be a teacher. I received my Master’s Degree in Reading Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. I have spent the last 20 years of my teaching career in St. Vrain at Sanborn Elementary. Although I currently teach first grade, I have also taught fifth, third, a second/third combo, and literacy there.

My husband Shane and I have a son who is a freshman at Erie High School and a daughter who is an eighth grader at Sunset Middle School. Outside of school we spend time at our cabin in the mountains and a lot of time traveling around the country to watch our kids play lacrosse. I also love reading in my hammock in the backyard.

I am looking forward to meeting you sometime soon around our beautiful campus.

Olivia DeJana

Fourth Grade Teacher

There is a certain magic with new beginnings and I could not be more excited to be part of opening Highlands Elementary! I am a Colorado native, but I did my undergraduate work at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Following a year of service with AmeriCorps, I earned my Master of Education degree from Regis University in Denver. I have taught 2nd and 5th grades and I am looking forward to teaching 4th grade at Highlands.

I believe that teaching is the best job in the world! I love fostering relationships with my students and helping them meet their individual goals. I am as passionate about learning as I am about teaching and I believe that every day is full of opportunities to learn.

When I’m not at school, you’ll find me spending time with my husband, two sons, and two miniature dachshunds. We enjoy getting outside, fishing, doing archery, and having family movie nights.

Rachel Dickens

Second Grade Teacher

I feel so very lucky to be teaching at Highlands Elementary. I have taught Pre-k to 3rd grade and 2021 will start my 19th year teaching. I can’t imagine doing anything different. My favorite parts of teaching are laughing, loving, and learning with my students, and building a strong community with my class and families. My husband and I have two black lab girls that we love like our children and live in Longmont. We love spending time with our friends and family, playing games, and doing anything outside. I am more than excited to learn and grow with our new community this year!

Jessica Esinhart

First Grade Teacher

I am so excited to join an inspirational crew of leaders, innovators & dreamers at Highlands Elementary. I am a Colorado native, raised in Parker. I earned my Bachelor of Science in Marketing at CSU. During my ski/snowboard instructing days at Beaver Creek, I discovered my calling. I have a long list of family members who found their purpose in life was to teach & to make a difference one child at a time. I received my teaching license in Elementary Education from Metro State then onto getting a master’s degree in Language Acquisition from Adams State. I spent a month teaching 3rd/4th year students in Islington, London while receiving credit toward my licensure. This will be my 13th year teaching for the St. Vrain Valley School District. I am a passionate & dedicated teacher who loves working with children & their families. My goal is to engage children throughout their learning experiences & to keep them on a successful educational path. I currently live in Niwot with my husband & two children, Lauren (6) and Ben (3). We enjoy adventures & exploring nature. Some of our favorite things to do as a family include traveling, afternoon bike rides along local trails & after dinner dance parties. I’m looking forward to learning and growing together while exploring interests & keeping our eyes on the stars. Anything is possible! I am delighted to be a part of the Highlands Elementary staff & welcomed by this supportive community. We are going to ROCK this school year!

Denise Gerhard

Community Schools Program Manager

I am excited to be a part of the Highlands Elementary team as the Community Schools Program Manager. Working for the St. Vrain Valley School District for the past six years has given me an amazing opportunity to further my love and dedication to providing a safe and healthy learning environment.

I grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado enjoying the outdoors through hiking, biking, skiing and running. Growing up in a small town gave me a passion for community, health, and exercise. As an Erie resident, the town provides the same small town feel and similar culture of my youth.

My husband Logan and I have two daughters who are competitive gymnasts. When our family isn’t at a gymnastics meet, we enjoy our time in the mountains or splashing in the waves of the Caribbean.

Kristen Green

Special Education Paraprofessional

Christina Haid

Health Clerk

My name is Christina Haid, my husband and I have lived in Erie for 15 years. I am the mother of two boys, two dogs and two cats. My family and I are very active in the Erie Community, we like to volunteer and stay close to home for activities. We enjoy hiking, walking the trails, paddle boarding and spending time with our dogs. Over the last 10 years, I have spent time working in Erie schools in various jobs. In the most recent two years, I found a love for health care and helping kids with their specific needs. I am very excited to continue my journey in health education at Highlands Elementary.

Jeremy Haseloh
Jeremy Haseloh

Fifth Grade Teacher

I am tremendously excited and grateful to be a part of the Plan Team for Highlands Elementary . Living in the community myself, I cannot wait to open a school that reflects the values, dreams, and expectations we in the community have for our children.

I have been in education for 11 years after a previous career in finance and I currently teach fifth grade at Thunder Valley K8 in Frederick. Along with teaching fifth grade I have also taught sixth grade, I have been a math and literacy interventionist, and I have taught an engineering electives class as well as a science electives class.

My experience has steered me in creating a student driven classroom where students feel empowered to take ownership of their education by pursuing their passions and interests. You will also find humor a daily part of my classroom!

My wife Megan is a fourth grade teacher with Boulder Valley School District and we have two children, Julian who is 6 and Lucia who is 3. I look very much forward to opening the doors of the school and my classroom to all of you in August!

Photo of Michele Keener
Michele Keener

Administrative Assistant

Michele is excited to have the opportunity to work at Highlands Elementary and get to know the area families. She has worked in St. Vrain Valley Schools since 2002 where she began her career as a media tech at Prairie Ridge Elementary, and then moved to Eagle Crest Elementary in 2004 continuing in the same position. After years of library and technology, she moved into a new position serving as the administrative assistant at Eagle Crest, which has been a very rewarding experience for her both personally and professionally.

Michele lives in Longmont with her husband and their four grown children are scattered across the Denver area. Together, they share horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and thousands of bees!  Besides their ‘hobby farm’, Michele loves reading, anything to do with water and the mountains, and spending time with her children.

Michele looks forward to growing with the Highlands Elementary community and working with the school plan team to develop an inclusive learning environment that brings out the uniqueness of every student.

Lisa Kopplinger

Art Teacher

I am excited to be part of the Erie community as the art teacher at Highlands Elementary. I have worked for the St. Vrain Valley school district since 2001. I have an Associate’s Degree from The Colorado School of Art and Design, a B.A. in Visual Arts and a Master of Arts in Art Education from the University Northern Colorado Graduate School of Art and Design. My husband, Scott, and I have been married since 1988, we are both Colorado natives. We have two adult children and a sweet granddaughter.
I enjoy painting, reading, watching college football games and road trips to our family home in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Shoshana Kraus

Preschool Teacher

I am excited to teach at Highlands Elementary and take part in creating our new school community. As a preschool teacher I look forward to introducing our youngest students to school and lifelong learning adventures! Education is a passion of mine that I have pursued for over 20 years in a variety of settings such as IB, Montessori, and play-based preschool classrooms, and environmental education. I have a B.A. from Michigan State University and earned my teaching license through the Stanley British Primary Teacher Preparation program. My husband Erik and I have three daughters Shira (8 years old), Maya and Emery (6 year old twins). We love living in Colorado and having access to hiking, skiing and camping in the Rocky Mountains. I am originally from the beautiful peninsula of Michigan, but the mountain west is where I feel most at home. Preschool is filled with friendship, play, learning, and discovery; we are going to have so much fun this year!

JoLene Lewis

Literacy/GT Teacher

I just completed my 25th year of teaching with 22 of those being in SVVSD. For the past 22 years, I have taught 3rd grade at Niwot Elementary (for 9 years), and Blue Mountain Elementary (for 13 years). Prior to Blue Mountain opening, I was on the planning team. I have experienced the positive energy and incredible excitement that comes with being part of a new school. I am beyond grateful to be able to experience this again at Highlands Elementary! I am super excited about my new job at Highlands because Literacy and GT are both passions of mine. In my free time I enjoy spending time outdoors as much as possible with my family and friends.

Michelle Moon

Special Education SSN

SVVSD is the only district I know. From being a student to now starting my 7th year teaching, I love being a part of this great district!

I feel extremely grateful to be a part of the Highlands community and honored to be the significant support needs teacher. My goal is always to work diligently to empower our students to reach their fullest potential.

I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with my bachelor’s degree in Special Education, generalist. Throughout my career, I have found a passion for teaching students that require more individualized support and education.

My husband and three kids (one in high school, two in elementary) live in Northern Colorado. When we are not busy with the kid’s sports, we enjoy being outside as much as possible. Swimming, fishing and gardening are our summer highlights.

Jenn Ordway
Jenn Ordway

Music Teacher

I am thrilled to be a part of the planning team for Highlands Elementary! I have been an educator in St. Vrain for 13 years; the last 11 of which have been as the music teacher at Eagle Crest Elementary. I strive to create a dynamic and engaging environment in the music classroom, where students of all backgrounds and abilities can thrive. My classroom is filled with noise, excitement and movement, as students dance, create and explore all facets of music education.

My husband, Derek, and I have been married for 25 years and have three sons. Our older two sons are in college in Oklahoma and Nebraska and our youngest is graduating from Silver Creek High School in May. Outside of school, I love to spend time at our lake house in Nebraska.

My goal is to foster the love of music in each and everyone of my students and to create in them a desire to have music be a part of their lives long after they leave elementary school. I can’t wait to make music come alive for the students of Highlands Elementary and to build relationships with the Erie community.

Christa Overlease
Christa Overlease

Special Education Teacher

I am excited to join Highlands Elementary and the Erie Community for a new challenge in my teaching career and a new adventure in education. This is a great opportunity to contribute to creating the culture of a new school.

After growing up in Westminster, I graduated from CU-Boulder with a degree in Psychology. After that, I pursued my teaching license in Special Education from Metro State University of Denver and my Master’s Degree in Secondary Math Education. My journey in the St. Vrain Valley School District started in 2011 at Eagle Crest Elementary School as a practicum student, then a student teacher, and finally as a Special Education Teacher.

My husband and I settled in Longmont and have three amazing children. Our family enjoys traveling around the world by plane, ship or bus. We also enjoy camping, hiking, and experiencing the outdoors with our pair of Shorkie puppies and silver lab.

My teaching philosophy gravitates around the idea that every child is unique and can benefit from individual supports that are catered to their learning abilities and styles. I believe in providing a positive learning environment where children are given the academic, social, and emotional support needed for success. When the proper supports are available children can meet their full potential.

Alexia Peterson


My name is Alexia Peterson and I am very excited to be the School Counselor at Highlands Elementary School! I received my Masters in School Counseling from the University of Northern Colorado in 2019 and have been a School Counselor at the elementary level for two years! I have a passion for working with students on developing their social emotional skills in a way that allows them to tackle any challenges they may face and that helps them be successful in all areas of their lives! I am excited to be able to help grow a new school community and to get to know our families! Outside of school, I love spending time with friends and family, going on adventures, challenging myself to try new things, and anything that allows me to get outside in nature!

Sarah Phillips

Kindergarten Teacher

I am thrilled to join this amazing team at Highlands Elementary School. I look forward to the many adventures that teaching Kindergarten will bring this year! I’m passionate about working with our youngest learners in their first year of Elementary school. I strive to create a fun and positive classroom, designed to foster a love of learning in every student. This will be my 15th year teaching and I am excited to make this the best year yet!

I grew up in Longmont, Colorado and am a graduate of the St. Vrain Valley School District. I earned my BA in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Colorado. My husband and I have three wonderful children together, ages 7, 5 and 6 months. I love spending time with my family going on bike rides, walks, playing sports and exploring all that beautiful Colorado has to offer!

Laura Quesada

Preschool Teacher

Hi, my name is Laura Quesada and I live with my husband Jay, our 2 boys, Harper and Wilson, and our dog Fletch. I have my MA in Early Childhood Education and Special Education Specialist Credential. I have been working with young children for over 10 years. I taught in Oakland, California before moving to Colorado in 2018. I couldn’t imagine a better career or place to live! In my free time you will almost always find me outside : running, biking, climbing, hiking and camping.

Jesse Ramirez

Head Custodian

Brittany Springston

Special Education Paraprofessional

I am very excited to be a part of the Highlands Elementary School next year. I live in Longmont with my husband and two kiddos! My daughter Briar will be a second grader at Highlands next year. My son is four and full of energy! We love to cook, go on adventures, and be outside. Last year was my first year in the district as a Special Education Preschool Paraprofessional and I love it! In my free time I love to cook, bake, craft, and be a mama! I am excited to be a part of this amazing community!

Tricia Starzynski

Third Grade Teacher

I am honored to be a part of Highlands family! I am very excited to get to know the community and to have the opportunity to serve the students and families of Highlands.
I have been an educator for over twenty years serving in the classroom and as an administrator. My experiences have taught me the value of building relationships and the importance of working together for the benefit of all of our students. I am committed to ensuring a safe learning environment as well as a positive and successful educational experience for your student.
I am a Minnesota native however moved to Pennsylvania where I finished high school and attended college. I completed my undergraduate degrees in Elementary Education at Penn State University. My husband and I moved to Colorado soon after graduation and have lived in Colorado since 1999. After teaching for a few years, I went back to school and received my Master of Education in Educational Administration from Grand Canyon University.
I have two daughters along with my two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Mocha and Moose. My oldest, Kayla, will be attending the University of Minnesota – Rochester in the fall, for a doctorate in Occupational Therapy. My youngest, Madyson, is attending the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and will be graduating this spring with a focus in animal science, looking to attend veterinary school.
I am honored to be a part of the Highlands Community and looking forward to learning more about your family and working with your student this school year.

Taylor Supino

PE Teacher

Ms. Supino is a Colorado Native and alumni of St. Vrain Valley School District. After graduating from Niwot High School, she spent her next two years at Garden City Community College where played Softball and received an Associates of Science. Ms. Supino then transferred to the University of Nebraska at Omaha to continue her athletic and academic career for one year before accepting a scholarship opportunity to be a collegiate Softball coach at Bellevue University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Health and Human Performance. Upon graduation, she moved back home to Colorado and was accepted into Western Colorado University’s Master’s of Arts in Education and Teacher Leadership Program which she completed in the spring of 2021.

Through both her education and experiences, Ms. Supino has developed a teaching philosophy for physical education that centers around individualized learning and personal growth combined with a curriculum that is both challenging and fun to reach the objective of creating positive experiences that help students build a life-long healthy relationship with movement and physical activity. She believes that a student’s experience within physical education at a young age has an enormous impact on their relationship with healthy and active living as they grow older and she wants to make sure her teaching leaves a positive influence long after they leave her classroom.

Outside of school, Ms. Supino loves spending time with friends and family and most importantly her dogs Oaklie and Rooster. She enjoys spending her summers at the lake boating, swimming, and fishing. Ms. Supino also enjoys coaching Softball, as she is an Assistant Varsity coach for Mead High School in addition to giving private lessons as well.

Janelle Van Portfliet

Kindergarten Teacher

I’m thrilled to be joining the crew at Highlands Elementary as we open the doors in August. This will be my 9th year teaching with experience in Kindergarten, first, and second grade. I love this age of curiosity and growth. I strive to form strong relationships and make sure all of my kiddos feel known and loved each day. Our classroom will be a safe place to try new things, ask questions, and make mistakes as I guide my students to be problem-solvers socially and academically.

My husband, Michael, and I have been married for 7 years and we have a two-year-old daughter, Holly. Our family loves to be outside and take advantage of the Colorado outdoors.

It is an honor to care for and teach your children. I look forward to establishing strong relationships in this community.

Elise Volpi

First Grade Teacher

I am beyond excited to be part of the Highlands Elementary team! I have taught the past 3 years in Erie as a first and second grade teacher and I love working in this community. Having strong relationships with students and parents is most important to me. In the classroom I aim to create a nurturing environment where students are at the center of their learning and can grow and succeed in many different ways.

I am a Colorado native and after moving around to different cities I finally landed in Denver. I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. I love traveling to new countries and experiencing their ways of life. I also love to read, play piano, and be outdoors!

Stacey Ward Horton

Kindergarten Teacher

I am so excited to be teaching Kindergarten at Highlands Elementary School! This will be my 19th year teaching elementary school. I have taught Preschool, Kindergarten and 1st grade. My undergraduate degree is from Arizona State University and I hold a Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University.

My husband and I have been married for almost 20 years and we have 3 children that attend St. Vrain Schools. We will have a Junior in High School, an 8th grader and a 5th grader. We moved to Longmont 10 years ago and absolutely love Colorado. In the winter you will find us skiing and snowboarding and in the summer we like to hike and travel.

Mandy Warren
Mandy Warren

Fourth Grade Teacher

Mandy Warren is currently a fourth grade teacher at Blue Mountain Elementary and the St. Vrain LaunchEd Virtual Academy. With over 14 years experience as an elementary educator (the last six years in St. Vrain), Mandy is a dynamic and enthusiastic teacher with a passion for developing engaging, student-centered, and project-based learning opportunities for all of her students.

With experience in mentoring/coaching and leading blended classrooms, Mandy is a teacher that is relationship-focused and thrives on providing meaningful and individualized feedback. Mandy graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison (Go Badgers!) with a degree in Elementary Education and Theatre and Drama. She also has a Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado – Boulder where she studied Educational Policy.

She and her husband are both educators in St. Vrain Valley and are very grateful that they are able to raise their children and build relationships in such a wonderful community. Outside of school, Mrs. Warren loves to spend time with her family (which includes her teenage step-daughter, 3-year-old son, and 1-year-old daughter), listen to her husband play jazz music, create and share her art, do yoga, and explore the beauty that is Colorado.

Mrs. Warren is excited to be joining Highlands Elementary because she knows that this school is already committed to providing unique and creative educational opportunities for students.

David Welch

Media Tech

I feel grateful and ready to be a part of this new school community. I have worked with children
and students in many different capacities for more than 25 years. I have a degree in psychology
from California State University, Fullerton, and also earned a multiple subjects teaching
credential from California State University, Chico. I have studied communication design, web
design, digital graphics, and special education, as well.

My last job position was with the Grass Valley School District, which is in a small mountain
community in Northern California. I fixed the district technology and managed student software.
I also hosted students in my computer lab at Bell Hill Academy, a K-4 dual immersion school. I
miss the students and community so much, but am looking forward to creating the same kind of
meaningful relationships at Highlands.

My wife Lori and I moved to Colorado 1 year ago to be closer to our two young grandchildren.
We have been happily together for 35 years, married 30. We have one daughter, Tyler, who is
26 and has been married for 4 years. Her children are Cyrus, 2, and Rowan, who is 6 months.
I had lived in CA all my life, having lived in the southern, central, and northern parts of the
state; by the ocean and in the mountains. I am finding Colorado to be welcoming and as
beautiful. I am looking forward to exploring, recreation, and discovery.

Korri Winka

Registrar | Attendance Clerk

I have lived in the Longmont area for 13 years. When I am not at school or working my other job, at a local restaurant, I love spending time with my friends and family, going paddle boarding, and snuggling with my dog. Over the last few years, I have spent time working in Red Hawk Elementary and more recently, Eagle Crest Elementary. I am thrilled to be working here at Highlands Elementary.