• Meet the Cottonwood Plains Elementary Staff


    Front Office

    Mr. Harting, Principal

    Eric Harting, Principal





    Pam Svedman, Secretary



    Carrie Norman, Nurse



    Maribel Lopez-Cepero, School Health Office Assistant

    My name is Maribel Lopez-Cepero. I love to workout and do Zumba. I am a Strong Proud Army Wife.I am very friendly, always smiling and I love to cook and take care of my family.


    Amy Kim-Marks, Faculty Assistant

    This is my 10 th year at Cottonwood plains elementary. I am the faculty assistant
    here. I honestly love my position here, as it allows me to use my creativity, as well
    as interact with the kids. I have had the privilege of being here for so long
    watching kids grow, change, learn, and provide me with a ton of love and hugs. I
    have seen past students graduate and even marry! This position has fulfilled me in
    many ways! I have not only been able to teach your children certain life skills, but
    they have taught me the same. Previous to working here I was a stay at home
    mom for 7 years while working on a double degree through Regis University
    obtaining a BA in Psychology and Human Resource Management. I also live an
    hour away in the mountains and have been driving that 1 hour drive one way for
    the past 10 years! Through every weather element I have zero regrets showing up
    every day to work with your children. Thank you for attending our growing school
    with loving excellent teachers and staff!


    Erin Klingensmith, Psychologist/Counselor


    Kitty LaFond, Instructional Coach/Interventionist

    Hi, I am Kitty LaFond (formally McKechnie).  I have been first a parent and then a teacher here at Cottonwood for the last 20 years! I have been a 3rd and 4th grade teacher and this year I am the school's instructional coach.  Cottonwood is an amazing school, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this "family."  I have my masters in education and am currently working on my PhD in school leadership.  I love learning!


    Janet Williams, Interventionist

    I'm Janet Williams!  I have been teaching at CWP for 10 years as the Literacy Interventionist and as a first grade teacher.   Previously, I was the Interventionist at Centential Elementary.  My family and I moved to Colorado in 2003 from Southern California.  My husband, Dan and I have a daughter, Carly who attended CWP and graduated from LHS in 2016.   I enjoy camping, paddle boarding, reading and movies.  


    Cathy Schaefer, Intensive Reading Coordinator


    MaryPat Hayden-Davis, GT

    Originally from Western NY, my teaching career spans several grade levels, schools, even states! This is my 11th year with the Thompson School District and my 9th year as a teacher of gifted and talented students. I also teach at High Plains.

    My husband and I live in Fort Collins. I am the very proud mom of two daughters, both away at college. Go Skyhawks and Buffs! My family and I love to travel together and are always up for a new adventure. When not spending time with my family I enjoy gardening and cooking. 


    Theresa Kunis, Resource


    Arlene Geary, Speech/Language


    Michaela Cunningham, OT


    Samara Cohen, ELA

    My name is Samara Cohen. I grew up in Rhode Island but have been in Colorado for 20 years.  I have been teaching English Language Development at Cottonwood Plains since 2000. I love traveling especially to places where I can snorkel.   I have been married for 15 years and have a daughter named Willow who keeps me busy.  


    Sarah Perkins, ELA

    My name is Sarah Perkins. I have been teaching English for 18 years. I am interested in learning about other places and cultures, and I like to knit and garden. I'm happiest when I'm in my kitchen or reading a good book.




    Leah Gregg, Preschool Teacher

    My name is Leah Gregg and I teach preschool here at Cottonwood Plains.  I have been teaching preschool for 18 years and have worked in special education for 15.  I am blessed to have two children, whom I enjoy spending time with outdoors.  


    Becky Amilian, Preschool Para


    Jenna Montgomery, Preschool Lunch Aide

    Yesenia Perez, Kindergarten KA

    Hola! My name is Yesenia Pérez, and I am thrilled to say this is  my 18th year teaching as an Elementary teacher and my 3rd year as the Spanish teacher in the Dual Language Program where I love to teach. I grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to Colorado in 2008. Currently I live in Fort Collins with my husband, my daughter Anais my son Yarey and my dog Ela. I enjoy cooking,reading,watching movies and traveling with my family.

    Kaitlyn Chambers, Kindergarten KB

    Hello! I am Mrs. Chambers. This is my second year teaching kindergarten at Cottonwood Plains Elementary. When I am not teaching, I enjoy being outdoors. 

    Deb Miller, Kindergarten KC

    My name is Deb Miller. This is my 14th year teaching Kindergarten at Cottonwood Plains and my 30th year teaching. I have been married to my husband for 26 years and have two sons who are 21 and 16.  I also have a 4-legged daughter named Button-Roo. I love spending time with my family traveling and then scrapbooking the adventure when we get home!

    Julie Piotraschke, Kindergarten KD

    Andrea Boyd, 1st Grade 1A

    My name is Andrea Boyd and I am excited to start my second year as the First Grade Dual Language Immersion Spanish Teacher at Cottonwood Plains Elementary. I was born and raised in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, a very small country located in South America, between Brazil and Argentina. I went to school in Uruguay. I graduated from Universidad de la República in Montevideo with a degree in International Relations. While studying, I was asked to teach English as a foreign language at a local academy. I started with one group and the following year I decided I wanted to become a teacher. I was very intrigued by the way languages are acquired and learned. I taught English as a foreign language for almost ten years in Uruguay before coming to the US to teach Spanish in 2004. I taught high-school Spanish for three years in Kentucky and Spanish K-8 for five years. I hold a Master of Arts in Education from Northern Kentucky University. I moved to Colorado at the end of 2013 and my husband and I live in Greeley. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to teach your children. 

    Laura Yaussi, 1st Grade 1B

    I am originally from Southern California and have called Fort Collins, Colorado home for the past 20 years.  I am married to James Yaussi and have four children, ages 22, 24, 28, and 31. Ten years ago I became a teacher and have been working with children and families as a teacher at Cottonwood Plains Elementary School.  I taught kindergarten for five years and first grade for five years. Currently, I  teach first grade in the Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program. In DLI, students spend 50% of their day learning in English and 50% of their day learning in Spanish.  The DLI program brings every element of effective education together in a powerful way. Academic achievement, multicultural education, and bilingual education create a learning environment where all students can achieve at high levels and I am tremendously proud to be part of this program.

    Niki Van Essen, 1st Grade 1C

    My name is Mrs. Van Essen. I am currently the first grade teacher in the all-day-English class here at Cottonwood. I love building relationships with all the students in our school and...being super goofy (at the right times)! My son is in enrolled here, and says he has become "famous" in the school. I also have a toddler son with a BIG personality. My husband gets to drive big machines on construction sites for work and loves what he does! I am very lucky to have such a supportive family at home, and here at school with all of my students and staff in the building! 

    Margaret Angulo, 2nd Grade 2A

    Hola! My name is Margaret Angulo. I've been in education for 14 years now.  I was born in Illinois but I grew up in Mexico, thus Spanish is my first language.  My family has lived in Chicago for most of my life now, which is a lot!  I have three sons who also attend school here at Cottonwood Plains.  In our free time we like to be outdoors.  I personally love swimming and watching movies (not together.) My family and I are happy to live in Fort Collins and we love our Cottonwood family just as much.   

    Laurie Bylund, 2nd Grade 2B

    My name is Laurie Bylund. I have been teaching 18 years, 12 of those years at Cottonwood Plains.  My favorite part of my job is kids! They make me laugh and I am challenged everyday. I love to play volleyball and travel.  I am married and have two stepsons. 

    Sherri Riffle, 2nd Grade 2C

    Melody Fisher, 3rd Grade3A

    Rachelle Applewhite, 3rd Grade 3B

    My name is Rachelle Applewhite. This is my 7th year teaching. I have taught 2nd, 5th, and now 3rd grade. This is my third year at Cottonwood.  I enjoy spending time with my family, hiking, biking, playing volleyball, watching football, traveling, reading, and board games.

    Connie Cook, 3rd Grade 3C

    I'm Connie Cook. I have been a elementary school teacher in Thompson School District for over 20 years.  I love the school and its community,, and can't think of a better place to work.
    I love Colorado.  I am a native, so enjoy everything Colorado.  I love to hike, and camp.  When I am not in the outdoors, I am at home reading, quilting, or hanging with my husband, dog, and skyping grandkids.

    Megan Lizaragga, 4th Grade 4A

    Crystal Reed, 4th Grade 4B

    My name is Crystal Reed and I currently teach fourth grade.  I have been teaching for 14 years now, 13 of them at Cottonwood!  I love teaching fourth grade because we get to learn a lot of information of Colorado history.  I enjoy being with students and learning with them each day.  Outside of school, I have two young boys who keep me busy and when I find time I like to play a bit of golf and read books.

    Courtney Wehage, 4th Grade 4C

    Larry Shores, 5th Grade 5B

    My name is Larry Shores. I have been working for the last 26 years in education, mostly teaching 4th and 5th grades.  My hobbies include reading, cooking, and fishing.  My personal maxim....I get better at what I practice...am I practicing worthwhile attitudes and endeavors.

    Jeanna Dolezal, 5th Grade 5C

    My name is Jeanna Dolezal. I have been in education in the Thompson School District for 25 years -- 13 of them in 4th or 5th grade at Cottonwood. My hobbies include family outings, kayaking, hiking, camping, organic veggie gardening, beekeeping, and raising chickens.




    Raechelle Salas, ILC Teacher


    Kariann Allsop, ILC Para


    Stacey Lopez, ILC Para


    Laverna Ruff, ILC Para

    Mackenzie Pert, ILC Para

    Naomi Wood, ILC Para


    Sundell Lepe, Spanish

    My name is Sundell Lepe. I have been teaching for 13 years. I have two sons, Daniel who is 11 and Salvador who is 9. I enjoy cooking and creating new recipes.

    Susan Hunt, Art

    Geoff Ovesen, Physical Education

    My name is Geoff Ovesen and I am the physical education teacher here at Cottonwood Plains Elementary School! I have a wonderful wife and 2 amazing kids of my own. My son, Samuel, is a very good soccer player. My daughter, Sydney, loves to sing and dance. We enjoy spending time together outside hiking, biking, snowboarding/skiing, camping, and just about any other activity that we can do together. We have 2 dogs and 2 cats as well as a fish tank that complete our family!

    Tiffany Lahman, Music

    My name is Tiffany Lahman. I've been teaching for 3 years now. I've been playing piano since I was 5, and playing flute/piccolo since 5th grade. I still continue to play music in various community bands. When I'm not teaching or playing music, I like to go on hikes, drink coffee, color, travel and read. I've lived in the Northern Colorado area my whole life.


    Dana Hyland, Library Clerk

    My name is Dana Hyland. I have been the librarian at Cottonwood for 5 years. All 3 of my own children went to Cottonwood. My favorite thing to do in my spare time is hang out with my husband, my kids, and my granddaughter.

    Kelly Hoefle, Computer Lab Facilitator

    My name is Kelly Hoefle. I have been working in the Computer Lab at Cottonwood for the last 3 years.  Before I came to Cottonwood, I facilitated the Computer Lab at B. F. Kitchen.  I have been married to my husband for 23 years and have two teenage daughters who keep me happily busy.  My hobbies include hiking, reading, gardening and cooking.  My favorite part of my job is working with all elementary grade levels, keeping up with technology and having the summer off!

    Megan Hubbs, 1st grade Aide

    Carol Myers, Reading Corps

    Jay Brungardt, Lead Custodian

    Miles Winkler, Night Custodian

    Lori Pfannenstiel, Kitchen Manager/Breakfast

    Marsha Nixon, Kitchen Aide