Meet Our Staff

Kenzie Tichenor
Director

Hi there! I am a born and raised Pacific Northwesterner with a passion for young children and their good beginnings! If you want to talk about enrollment at UTCS, I'm your girl! I have worked with children of all ages and walks of life over the past five years. I've worked with BRIDGES: a center for children grieving the loss of a parent or sibling, coached youth swim teams and swimming lessons for children with learning challenges and taught in a couple of local preschool programs. I began with UTCS as a toddler teacher in 2013 and have recently transitioned into an administrative role. While I graduated with a BA in Neuropsychology from the University of Puget Sound, I am currently enrolled in courses at UW in the Early Childhood Education & Family Studies. I hope to direct someday and am so thrilled to be learning in this amazing community of families, children and teachers. In my free time I love yoga, travelling, backpacking, crafting and seeing live music with friends. 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

Hello University Temple Children’s School Family! My name is Christine Grigg and I look forward to meeting and getting to know all of you. I was born in California but moved to Washington before I was 2, so Washington is definitely my home. I love the Seattle area, with our beautiful landscape and water everywhere you turn. I grew up in Marysville and Lake Stevens and graduated from Snohomish schools. My mom and dad were married 61 years before my dad died a year ago. My mom and sister still live in Lake Stevens. I have 3 nephews; the oldest has 2 girls (age 3 & 4) and the 2nd one just informed me that he’s going to be a dad in February – so they keep our family growing! The most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is spend a year in the Philippines with a friend of mine who has since opened a center to help children with cancer. I have a varied work background with half of my working years spent in some form of childcare, and the other half working in various office positions from file clerk to full-charge bookkeeper. I have an AAS degree in Accounting and I have worked with organizations providing financial planning, engineering, adult family homes, property management, and non-profit organizations. I love bringing order from chaos and solving puzzles – so accounting is a perfect field for me! 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 love and focus of my time and energy. Between my friend’s kids, helping with Sunday School, my nephews, and the kids I actually got paid to play with – I never run out of kids to love! I worked as a nanny for 15 years and I still have contact with some of my kids who are adults already! (Why do they have to grow up and make us feel old?) I also worked in childcare centers and preschools. At my last position, I worked in the Baby Room of the Intergenerational Learning Center at Providence in West Seattle. I loved my job there, but the physical demands of caring for the kids took its toll on me, and I had to leave. I didn’t want to stop working with children, but I realized that I had to go back to my administrative office experience and find a job that wasn’t as physical. And then I found University Temple Children’s School! It is such a blessing to come on board as the Business Manager – and still see kids every day! It means so much to me to know that kids and families will still be a part of my life on a regular basis.

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

I have worked at UTCS for nearly 8 years in the Toddler room, where I am privileged to work with a dedicated and talented group of teachers. Prior to UTCS, I worked at Able Child in the infant and toddler rooms for two years. (I'm fairly new to this field since I spent the last 20 years baking bread and croissants with an organic, collectively managed bakery.) I genuinely love working with toddlers! Witnessing and participating in their development is thrilling and fun. Every day brings new challenges and an opportunity for professional growth and development. When I'm not at UTCS, I'm trying to find time to be with my three amazing children and husband. With them, I cook great food, backpack and camp, play softball, contra dance, garden, and go to occasional baseball games. I also love to read, ride my red bike, and take long walks on the beach with my dog Toby.

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
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. 

Alissa Scheffler
Shooting Star Teacher

Hello, my name is Alissa. I'm a Seattle native and proud mom to an amazing 9 year old son named Dylan. I graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. After my son was born, I went back to school to North Seattle Community College and earned the Washington State Certificate in Early Childhood Education. I have been involved in early education since my son started co-op preschool in 2011. I have a love of the arts and music and love reading books to the children. I love spending time with my son as well as going to the movies, sewing, listening to music and thrift store shopping. I'm excited to work here and be the best mom/teacher I can be.

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 earned a BS in Biology at University of Puget Sound. Since then I have spent years working as a research scientist in laboratories around Seattle. Science outreach and education have always been a passion of mine, even while working on research projects. 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.

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, and I'm a teacher in the Orca room. I started working at UTCS in 1993 after attending the Early Childhood Education program at NSCC. I have always loved taking care of children. Coming from a large family, there were always lots of children of all different ages around, and still are to this day! In 1992, I got married and joined another large family! We have three children, Cody-18, Kortney-15, and Cory-13. Between our siblings, our children are the youngest of 17 cousins! So with family, school, work and all the children's after-school activities, you could say we have a full schedule. But I wouldn't change a thing. It goes by too fast, so you have to make all the memories you can! When I find some extra time, I enjoy scrapbooking, sewing baby quilts, organizing (it relaxes me, crazy I know!), camping, skiing, snowboarding, riding bikes, going to drive-in movies and spending time with family and friends.

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 kids 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, he continued working in this field through another non-profit that offers art activities to young children, Seattle ReCreative. After working with children through these two organizations, Will realized he wanted to commit more of his time to this profession. He is extremely excited to begin working and learning with both the children and the staff at UTCS. In his free time, Will likes to read (sci-fi and fantasy!), hike, watch cartoons, 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. 

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.

Jessica Kerslake
Dragonfly Teacher