Meet Our Staff

Kenzie Tichenor
Director

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Kenzie began working with young children in college, instructing swim lessons for children with special needs. After graduating from the University of Puget Sound with a dual degree in Psychology and Spanish, Kenzie started at BRIDGES: a Center for Grieving Children. Growing increasingly interested in the youngest of age groups, Kenzie found UTCS and has been here ever since, starting as a teacher and moving into the role of Executive Director.

Working with children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds in the past decade, Kenzie values diversity and strives to engage in meaningful connection with children, teachers and parents collaboratively. In her free time she enjoys teaching yoga, travelling, backpacking, crafting, playing with her kitty and hearing live music with friends. She hopes to impact her community by sharing positive experiences with children, teachers and families while building up her community. Kenzie believes that all children have the right to a good beginning and good beginnings never end.

Grace Gabel
Administrative Assistant

I am your local nutrition and nature enthusiast born and raised in southwest Seattle. In my spare time I enjoy digging through scientific articles about human health, natural medicine and our nation’s food quality to inform my own wellness and that of my family and friends. As a PNW child I also adore hiking, traveling to national forests and parks, hot springs, and generally spending time in the great outdoors. My favorite hike (to date) is Mt. Pilchuck! I am also a student, and recent graduate from the University of Washington, where I joined the first Education, Communities, and Organizations cohort. In my time at the University I became a witness to many of the social justice issues faced in Seattle, and here at UTCS I hope to continually add on to my understanding of what justice for all looks like. While graduated, and without intention to pursue another degree program just yet, I stand by a commitment to be a lifelong learner. Seeing where our childcare system stands, I believe that organizations like UTCS can serve as a much-needed educational model for our city. I look forward to meeting and getting to know each member of our community better! I am excited to share and grow in knowledge together as a community.

Christine Grigg
Business Manager

I have spent most of my life in the Seattle area, after a brief start in California. I love the beauty that surrounds us here – the mountains, water, trees, etc. I always say that you haven’t really seen Seattle until you see it on a clear blue-sky day!

Children have been in my heart from my earliest memories. I started babysitting at age 9, and I’ve never had a time in my life where children weren’t a joy and focus of my time and energy. I worked as a nanny and teacher for about 20 years and I still have contact with some of my kiddos who are adults already!

Aside from children, my great loves in life are spending time with family and friends, music, theatre, my church community, anywhere I can see the water, and books. I love learning and I’m always curious to know more.

I’ve moved from direct childcare to tap into my administrative skills and handle the business side of things. It’s such a great combination to still be in the company of children while I’m in the office. Even though I’m not always a part of the action, my favorite part of my job is building meaningful relationships, and I look forward to getting to know you and your family.

I am so blessed to be a part of such a great community of teachers and parents who truly are nurturing the next generation. We have a part in raising children who are confident, thoughtful and compassionate learners who know how to communicate and respect others. What better way to send them off into the world?

DeDee Texley
Resource Coordinator

Hello all! I guess you could consider me one of the long-timers here at UTCS. My first experience with this wonderful school was in the winter of '92 as a student teacher. It was then that I knew I wanted to teach here, and once I finished my E.C.E. at North Seattle Community College in January '94 I was able to take a full time position. Since that time, I have worked with every age group and have enjoyed each and every stage. Now after 18 years as a Pre-K teacher, I have been given the chance to join our amazing admin team as a Mentor Teacher and parent educator! Away from work I enjoy being Nana to my Grandson Soren and Granddaughter Tennessee Rue, exploring the Great Northwest with my partner Mark and doing various needle crafts.

Lee LaCroix
Toddler Teacher

Hi there. I have worked at UTCS for nearly 9 years in the Toddler room, where I am privileged to work with a dedicated and talented group of teachers. I am fairly new to the ECE field as I spent 20 years owning and managing a bakery after graduating from the Evergreen State College.  Prior to coming to UTCS, I worked in the infant and toddler rooms at Able Child. I genuinely love working with toddlers! They are amazing. Witnessing and participating in their development is exciting and inspirational. Every day brings new challenges and wonders and an opportunity for professional growth and introspection. When not at work, I enjoy gardening, cooking and exploring nature.  I try to integrate these interests into our classroom happenings whenever possible. I also love to read, ride my bike, back pack, dance and take long walks with my grand dog Maya. But most of all I love being and playing with my husband and three beautiful children.

Cindy Hepler
Toddler Teacher

Cindy Hepler is an East Coast transplant with over twenty years of experience in child care. She began her career as a nanny in 1995 but soon wanted to get her hands into teaching. Through reading, workshops and trial and error, she has cultivated an ever-evolving style. Cindy worked as a nanny in Reykjavik and New York City. She took a detour to London before settling into her new home of Seattle five years ago. In her free time she paints, does make-up, rides horses, and enjoys shenanigans with friends.

Katherine Mendoza-Torres
Toddler Teacher

Hola! My name is Katherine, and I’m a teacher in the Toddler room and the UTCS Spanish teacher. I’m originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where I grew up and studied nursing. In 2015 I moved to Seattle with my husband and soon to be born daughter, Alannah. I enjoyed being able to work as a nanny while taking care of my daughter, watching the children I looked after growing up with Alannah. During the past three summers we have enjoyed hosting Spanish language day-camps for bilingual kids in Greenlake/Wallingford. I love singing, dancing, reading, and doing crafts with the kids in my classroom. Watching the incredible growth and changes in toddlers makes me excited to go to work each day. Outside of the classroom I am passionate about being out-doors, exploring, traveling, and making memories!

Perri Greeley
Toddler Teacher

I am a part time teacher in the toddler rooms, and I love nothing more than hanging out with one and two-year-olds! I have been working in childcare since I was an early teenager, and my end goal is teaching elementary school art. I received my BA in 2016 from Willamette University, majoring in anthropology and creative writing. Now I am pursuing an MFA in visual narrative from the School of Visual Arts. When I'm not working or doing school work, I like to hang out with my friends and family, and read, make art, and watch movies!

Jordan Chan
Toddler Teacher

Hi! My name is Jordan Chan, a new part-time teacher in the Toddler room! I am currently a Junior studying psychology and education at UW and am very excited to join the world of early childhood education here at UTCS. Outside of the classroom, I enjoy music, puzzles, and trying new things with my roommates (which may or may not end in disaster).

Jenny Demitruk
Toddler Teacher

I am an arts and nature loving parent of two amazing teens, and have lived in Seattle most of my life. I am happy to be one of UTCS’s dedicated part time Toddler teachers and proud to work in a school where my values are taught each day.  Through play children build life skills such as perseverance, respect and care for self and community and in Toddlers we  celebrate  making those fundamental connections. I feel honored to take part in that learning.  I have worked with young children for the past 15+ years in Seattle schools as Art Docent, Library help, Field Trip chaperone and Compost/Recycling advocate - a few of my passions. In my spare time I work with others developing child guidance strategies, reading about the brain, teaching parent education classes in summer and cross-country skiing to kids (and adults) in winter, and becoming an Explorer Search and Rescue volunteer in between. UTCS is a great place to be during the week!

Ryn Paris
Toddler Teacher

My name is Ryn Paris and I am very excited to be working at UTCS. I am a junior at UW majoring in Drama with a minor in Education, Learning, and Society as well as American Sign Language. I also work part-time as a Cabin Leader at Easterseals WA’s Camp Stand By Me, a camp for people with disabilities, throughout the year. 

Jason Sterland
Shooting Star Teacher

Hello UTCS families, my name is Jason Sterland. I have been working with children for the past 4 years, and I have completed CDA training courses and was awarded my certificate in 2017. Outside of the classroom I enjoy watching a lot of movies (I love Star Wars), making art, reading, hiking with my wife when the weather is clear enough, and hanging out with friends. I consider myself to be a very open-minded person and I look forward to the future, whatever it may hold. I am eager to meet all of you and get to know you and your children. I’m very excited to be here!

Bethany Stackhouse
Shooting Star Teacher

I am a biologist by training and temperament, Prior to my life as a teacher I spent years working as a research scientist in laboratories around Seattle. Science outreach and education have always been a passion of mine, and helping young kids be curious about their world is my favorite thing to do. I volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium, and teach camps and weekend programs at the Pacific Science Center. I am excited to bring my curiosity and love of nature to each student. When I am not in the classroom I am taking care of my two cats and my chameleon.

Maddy Terry
Wombat Teacher

I am currently finishing up my last year of my undergraduate degree of Early Childhood and Family Studies at the University of Washington. It is my goal to apply to the Masters in Teaching (K-8) program and then become a teacher at an elementary school. I grew up in Long Beach, California and moved to Washington State a few years before graduating high school. I love to draw, paint and create. I absolutely love all animals as well!

Erin Tang
Wombat Teacher

Erin has been teaching in the Wombat Room since 2016. She is passionate about food and music, and incorporates many of her interests into her classroom curriculum. From building a worm bin and teaching the students about empathy (and composting), to singing and playing songs in different languages at Circle Time, Erin finds that the simple delight and enthusiasm of her students is all the encouragement she needs! Outside of school, Erin is an active community violinist and cellist, playing music, ballroom dancing, cooking, and digging in the dirt on the weekends. If ever she is not at school, she is probably out somewhere in the world exploring and finding opportunities to learn something new.

Deborah Scherer
Wombat Teacher

I was born in Columbus, Ohio, but, after some moving from place to place in early childhood, was raised primarily in Missoula, MT.  I attended Hellgate High School and the University of Montana, where I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature, History, and Philosophy, with minors in Art History and Political Science, as well as some courses in Education. I was also the Fine Arts Editor of the college newspaper.

I came to a love of working with children as the oldest of 6 children who had much of the caretaking responsibility for my younger siblings. I also took some time off from college to nanny for a one year old child. Teaching has also been a long held interest for me and, while in college, I taught English as a Second Language to Hmong students at my high school alma mater. I have taken a circuitous route back to working with children and teaching, with stops along the way in commercial fishing, the restaurant industry, and paralegal claims work in the healthcare industry, but am very happy to have found my true calling here at UTCS.

I am currently taking college classes in Early Childhood Education and am about halfway toward my goal of obtaining ECE certification, and am learning so much to make me a better teacher for your children.

Melissa Danson
Orca Teacher

Hello, my name is Melissa, I started working at UTCS in 1992 - just a short time ago! 🙂 I started out as a Wombat teacher, then in 1998 I moved to the Orca room and have been there since. I really love working with children and watching them grow into self-confident independent creative people - with a little humor added too! We all need to remember to laugh! 🙂 My husband and I have been married since 1992, and I have 3 wonderful adult children and 1 great daughter-in-law. I enjoy organizing, crafts, massages, reading, traveling, and spending time with my family.

Will Opsahl Lister
Orca Teacher

William Opsahl Lister was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended the University of Wisconsin Madison, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting. After college, Will began working with children through the art outreach non-profit, Artists Working in Education. It was there that he discovered both the joy of working with children and his natural ability to connect with them. Upon moving to Seattle in 2016  he continued working in early education through the art non-profit Seattle ReCreative. Looking to dedicate more time to the field Will found his way to UTCS. He began as a substitute teacher before transitioning to full time in the Shooting Star room. He now works in the Orca room helping our 3-4 year olds to find their voice, name their thoughts and emotions, and become inquisitive explorers of our world.  In his free time, Will likes to read (sci-fi and fantasy!), hike, watch cartoons, bake, garden, play with his cat Milo, and work on his artwork.

Amica Dillon
Orca Teacher

Hi! I'm originally from Seattle, but lived in Hawaii for 14 years. In June, I am finishing up double majors in Early Childhood & Family Studies (Teaching & Learning Pathway) and Sociology with an education focus, and I am minoring in Marine Biology. I've worked as a America Reads Tutor at John Stanford Int'l School with the students in the Japanese program (I also come from a bi-ethnic background of Japanese and Caucasian). I hope to soon enter the Master's in Teaching program and bring in all the amazing experiences UTCS has given me and continues to give me. 

Helen Dahl
Orca Teacher

Hi! My name is Helen, and I am currently a sophomore at UW studying psychology and political science. I am so excited to be joining the UTCS community as a staff member after attending as a child and spending the last few months volunteering! I have taught swim lessons at my neighborhood pool for a number of years, and am excited to be working with young children. In my free time, I am a member of the UW marching band, and enjoy reading, drinking coffee, and hanging out with friends!

Shannon Weston
Dragonfly Teacher

I moved to Seattle 10 years ago from Concord, New Hampshire. I graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a BA in Studio Art, Puppet Making. I worked with school-agers at summer camps and after school programs teaching them to build puppets, as well as other 3-D art projects. UTCS is a very special place and has become a second family. I work in the Pre-K, Dragonfly classroom. I enjoy watching how fast the children here become more and more capable and self-sufficient everyday. I also enjoy working with the staff and families to create the best school environment possible. In my off-time, I like to go running, and also enjoy singing and dancing.

Tiffany Carlton
Dragonfly Teacher

Tiffany grew up with a single mom who was a nomad at heart; this gave her the chance to experience childhood everywhere from Big Bear California, to Florida, and eight years in Alaska. She has two grown sons, Henry and Ben. She fell into a job as a paraprofessional when the need arose in her son’s classroom working with special needs children. After which spent over three years an academically focused program at Next Generation preschool in Champaign Illinois. She has continued in play based education of children from preschool to fifth grade and is thrilled to to be joining UTCS.

Outside of work Tiffany likes hang out at home with her partner, two cats a dog and a tortoise. She also loves to hike, cook, dive head first into new creative projects and photograph people.

Olivia Kim
Substitute Teacher

Hello I am Olivia Kim, a substitute teacher at the UTCS! I advocate for equity diversity and quality education. Originally from Los Angeles, California, I am in Seattle attending the University of Washington for my Bachelor degrees in Education, Communities, and Organizations and English, Language and Literature. In addition, I am also pursuing a minor in Spanish. With a vision to become an educator, I am so excited and blessed for this opportunity to grow alongside the UTCS learners and staff.