Meet the Team

  • Emily Bustos
    Emily Bustos, President/CEO

    Emily joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council as Director in 2008. Previously she was Deputy Site Coordinator for Making Connections-Denver, a place-based community change initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation with a focus on family economic success, school readiness and resident leadership development in struggling communities.


    A Denver native, Emily has worked closely with the community to build capacity and facilitate systems change efforts in the nonprofit sector as well as in her work as a Community Development Specialist with the City and County of Denver. She has a B.A. in Urban Design and Architecture from New York University, and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree, with a concentration in Community Economic Development, from the University of Colorado at Denver.

    Emily provides leadership for the development and timely delivery of initiatives in support of the Council’s mission and assures the quality delivery of programs.

  • Nicole Riehl
    Nicole Riehl, Chief Operating Officer

    A Colorado native, Nicole began working for Denver’s Early Childhood Council in 2011 and is responsible for providing leadership and oversight for early learning grant programs, fund development, and comprehensive systems building work of the Council. This includes working in four domains of early childhood – early learning, child health, early childhood mental health and family support and ensuring alignment with the Council’s strategic plan.


    Prior to working for the Council, Nicole was an early childhood teacher within Reggio Emilia inspired and High/Scope Programs, and also held various roles with Qualistar Colorado, including Quality Rating Specialist, Denver Preschool Program Outreach Specialist and Denver Preschool Program Coordinator. Nicole has a B.S. in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Business Management and Marketing.

  • Liz Isaacson
    Liz Isaacson, Director of Finance & Grants Administration

    Liz is a native of Denver, graduated from the University of Denver and has spent her career in the financial and administrative management of non- and not-for-profit organizations in the Denver area. Liz joined the Council in 2016.

  • Kelly Bowes
    Kelly Bowes, Director of Professional Practice

    Kelly joined the Council in April 2012 and currently serves as the Director of Professional Practice. She coordinates a variety of professional development and quality enhancement strategies made available to the early learning community, including coaching, custom trainings, observations and certified-services, and consultation.

    She holds a Master’s Degree in Child Development from Tufts University and has over 15 years of experience in the field. She has held roles in research, child advocacy, consultation, and program management. She is proud to call Denver home which she shares with her husband and two active young children.

  • Maureen Reid
    Maureen Reid, Director of Quality Initiatives

    Maureen, a Colorado native, joined the Council in 2017.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development & Family Studies from Colorado State University and a master’s degree in Management from the University of Colorado.  Maureen’s professional experience began with Catholic Charities as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps in the Early Childhood Education Division, eventually leading to the ECE Director of Program Management and Quality Improvement.

    For the Council, she is the Director of Quality Initiatives and is responsible for grants management, supervision and team development as well as strategic implementation of services.  Maureen plays on two volleyball teams and spends her free time going to concerts, dining out and traveling with her husband.

  • Fatima Challinor
    Fatima Challinor, Career Pathways Program Assistant

    Fatima was born and raised in Asuncion, Paraguay. After being in an exchange program in Colorado in 2006, she fell in love with the mountains and outdoor activities, so she moved here permanently to study at Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2009. She graduated with two bachelor’s degrees, one in Human Services and another in Political Science.

    It was her hope and goal to apply her degree and knowledge in a nonprofit setting that serves families with young children. She has been working in Early Childhood Education since 2013, including time in Head Start and Early Head Start programs as a Child and Family Educator at Clayton Early Learning.

    Currently, she lives in Denver with her husband, and in her spare time enjoys hiking, running and enjoying the beautiful scenery Colorado offers.

    Fatima is bi-lingual in English and Spanish.

  • Adey Dimalanta
    Adey Dimalanta, Health & Well-Being Specialist

    Adey has worked at the Council since 2008 in a variety of roles. Currently she works on our Health & Well Being team, supporting the LAUNCH Together initiative and implementing social emotional best practices into our quality initiatives work.

    Adey is originally from Washington, DC and has Bachelor’s degrees in both Urban Studies & Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Chinazo Dumas
    Chinazo Dumas, Quality Navigator

    Chinazo joined the council in 2016 as Quality Initiatives Outreach Specialist. Chinazo has been working with children and families for over 12 years, with a background in Social Work and Early Childhood Education. She has a Masters Degree in Social Work, with an emphasis in Children and Families, and holds a clinical Certificate in Interpersonal Trauma.

    “Serving Children and Families on a daily basis, is truly a privilege. I am honored to work in such a wonderful field of Social Work and Early Childhood Education.”

    Chinazo enjoys spending time with her family. She has a wonderful, loving husband and a beautiful baby girl, who are the absolute joys of her existence!

  • Dora Esparza
    Dora Esparza, Business Leadership Specialist

    Joining the Council in 2017, Dora has worked in Early Childhood Education for the last 12 years. Her previous position was at Warren Village for nine years, where she worked as a Community and Funding Specialist. Dora has a long history of CCAP work and has chaired the Denver CCAP Collaboration (formerly known as the Child Care Task Force) in the Denver community for four years.

    Dora has a passion for diversity and working with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. She has graduate degrees in Psychology and Nonprofit Management. In her role at the Council she helps child care providers in developing strong business practices that work for them.

  • Erin Gager
    Erin Gager, Senior Workforce Solutions Manager

    Erin coordinates the professional development offerings for the Council. In working towards her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Erin learned about the value of community-informed systems change, and was thrilled to find a job with an organization that implements these strategies to help Denver’s youngest residents.


    A Denver native who has traveled extensively but couldn’t stay away from her home city, Erin’s favorite hobbies are rock climbing and baking, although baking often turns out to be the more dangerous of the two.


  • Heidi Ganser Lang
    Heidi Ganser Lang, Manager of Stakeholder Engagement

    Heidi began working with Denver’s Early Childhood Council in November 2015. She is responsible for office operations, internal support, meeting functions and technology needs for the Council, as well as overseeing the Council’s special community events.  Heidi is an active volunteer for Share our Strength—Colorado, and her volunteer work inspired her to seek employment with the Council. She recently joined the Board of Directors for a Children’s Theater non-profit in the Denver metro area. She has a dual Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies and Interior Design from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, and has a background in operations management, events planning, training and human resources, communications and customer service.

  • Grisel Garcia
    Grisel Garcia, Quality Navigator

    Guía de Calidad

    Grisel was raised in Denver but is originally from El Paso, Texas. She is the mother of two boys and another baby on the way! She has worked in the Early Childhood field for the past 7 years. Prior to coming to the Council she worked at Family Star Montessori in many roles, starting as a Teacher’s Assistant, then as an Administrative Assistant, and finally as a Child and Family Advocate.


    Grisel sees the importance in Early Childhood Education and has witnessed the huge impact Early Childhood Education has made on young children and their families, including her own children and family. She enjoys working in an organization that helps and educates not only children and their families but the providers who are serving the children and their families as well.

    Grisel is bi-lingual in Spanish and in English.


  • Jennifer Garcia
    Jennifer Garcia, Quality Specialist

    Jennifer joined the staff as a Quality Specialist at Denver’s Early Childhood Council in 2018. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Chapman University and has 15 years of experience working in the field of Early Childhood Education. For the first 10 years, Jennifer worked as a classroom teacher and more recently her work has focused on partnering with child care providers in the continuing quality improvement process.

    Prior to working at Denver’s Early Childhood Council, she has worked as a Research and Evaluation Associate at Clayton Early Learning where she was a member of the Denver Preschool Program (Classroom Assessment Scoring System) CLASS assessment team and as a Head Start CLASS Reviewer.

  • Cami Harris
    Cami Harris, Communications & Marketing Manager

    Cami handles all communications activities pertaining to the work of the Council. Cami joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council in 2013, with a background in community organizing, event management, outreach, and communications mostly in non-profit health care/public health, social service and grass-roots advocacy settings. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Augsburg College – Minneapolis, MN.


  • Marianne Hodge
    Marianne Hodge, Quality Navigator

    Marianne came to the council as a Quality Navigator in August 2018. She was raised in Upstate New York near the Adirondack mountains where her love of exploring nature began.  After a brief time in Washington, DC, where she found her niche in early childhood education at Sidwell Friends Child Development Center, she heard the Rocky Mountains calling her name.

    She taught at Warren Village for 3 years as an ECE Lead Teacher, until she became a stay-at-home mom for her son, Finley. Marianne also has a background in recruiting and a degree in Finance from Siena College. She loves to travel, read, hike and has a huge heart for early childhood education.

  • Lilith Huff-Muñoz
    Lilith Huff-Muñoz, Lead Quality Navigator

    Lilith joined the Council in November 2017, with a Masters in Elementary Education and over 9 years of experience in the ECE realm. She is a Colorado native who, you guessed it, loves the outdoors, particularly hiking, yoga and traveling. Lilith’s professional practice includes being a preschool teacher for 6 years, a brief stint as a preschool Assistant Director, and working as a Quality Improvement Navigator with Adams County.

    Lilith stepped into the team as Lead Quality Navigator. She brings a strong background knowledge of PDIS and Colorado Shines and works to assist programs in utilizing QI dollars to increase quality outcomes. She has a toddler son and when she is away from work she is chasing him around and enjoying time with her family.

  • Monica Ibarra
    Monica Ibarra, Denver Preschool Program Coordinator

    Monica, a Colorado native, joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council in August 2018 as Denver Preschool Program (DPP) Coordinator. In her role at the Council, she is responsible for providing overall support and coordination for the quality improvement administration partnership with DPP. Monica has 10 years of experience working in the field of Early Childhood Education.

    Prior to working at the Council, she served as a Research & Evaluation Associate Lead at Clayton Early Learning where she recruited and engaged families and providers through her work with the DPP Child Outcome Study. She was also a member of the DPP Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) assessment team.

    In her free time, Monica loves spending time with her husband and children in the mountains or a drive-in movie. She also enjoys cooking, especially for family gatherings.

    Monica is bi-lingual in English and Spanish.

  • Susan Kay
    Susan Kay, Quality Specialist

    Susan Kay joined the Council as the Social Emotional Early Development (SEED) Coach and Evaluation Specialist in 2013. Susan has worked in early social emotional development for the past 20 years; first as a child and family therapist in private practice, and then as an attachment-based therapist for the Relationship Roots therapeutic preschool.


    She continued with Relationship Roots as a trainer, coach, and parenting instructor in all aspects of early childhood mental health and social emotional support. Susan has also put all that information to good use in her own life as a foster and adoptive parent for the past four years. Susan received her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Naropa University in Boulder and has a Bachelor’s of Education from the University of Michigan. She is a Certified Pyramid Plus Approach Trainer and Coach.

    Susan is responsible for all aspects of coaching and evaluation for the Pyramid Plus Approach project that is part of the Social Emotional Early Development (SEED) Initiative. She also works on the Early Childhood Mental Health Project.


  • Luisa Lemus
    Luisa Lemus, Quality Specialist

    Mentora Individual, Mejoras a la Calidad 

    Luisa joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council in July 2015. Her responsibilities involve supporting the quality of programs by coaching with the tools on Environment Rating Scales (ERS) for Infant, Toddler and Preschool. She has 13 years of experience in the ECE field and was a former Infant/Preschool teacher and Family Advocate at Head Start and Migrant Head Start, in addition to coaching one year at Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley. Luisa has an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and she also speaks Spanish fluently.

  • Monica Marshall
    Monica Marshall, AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer and Outreach Specialist

    Monica joined the Council in March 2018. After studying International Relations at Suffolk University in Boston, she went to Spain for 2 years to teach English. After returning, she decided that she would like to enter the nonprofit field by way of AmeriCorps VISTA.  She enjoys volunteering at local food banks and soup kitchens, as well as cooking and traveling.

  • Pedro Méndez
    Pedro Méndez, Community Engagement Coordinator

    Pedro joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council in 2017 as Community Engagement Coordinator. In his role at the Council, he is responsible for supporting formal and informal child care providers with their professional development needs and identifying child care providers who are interested in Early Head Start work. Additionally, he oversees the Denver Preschool Program award system for Denver preschool teachers who have reached certain goals.


    Pedro earned his Bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish translation interpretation from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Relations. He has experience recruiting and engaging families and providers through his previous work with the Denver Preschool Program Child Outcome Study and evaluation work. He is passionate about equity, inclusiveness and cultural awareness and how these issues impact the field of early childhood education.


  • Phillip Perrin
    Phillip Perrin, Senior Data & Evaluation Analyst

    Philip joined the staff at Denver’s Early Childhood Council in November 2017 after serving as Director of Enrollment and Evaluation at the Denver Preschool Program. Prior to this role, he was a Strategic Operations Analyst with the Office of Early Childhood at the Colorado Department of Human Services. In these roles, he lead efforts to better understand and assess the landscape, needs and results of participation in early childhood programs.


    Philip’s educational background is in Higher Education, but he has also worked in K-12 education, international education programming, and most recently early childhood education. In his role at the Council, Philip contributes to overall evaluation and strategy efforts across programs. Originally from upstate New York, Philip holds a Master of Arts in Higher Education and Human Development from The George Washington University.


  • Anahis Reyes
    Anahis Reyes, Quality Navigator

    Anahis joined the Council in January 2018. She was raised in Denver but is originally from Mexico. She has been in the early childhood field since 2014. Prior to joining the Council, she worked for Denver Public Schools. “I joined the early childhood education field because I want to make a difference in children’s lives, and working at the Council gives me the opportunity to do that.” In her free time, Anahis loves to spend time with her husband and children doing a variety of activities. Anahis is bi-lingual in English and Spanish.

  • Jill Rocha
    Jill Rocha, Quality Specialist

    Jill is a Quality Specialist, certified Preschool CLASS Observer, and an instructor for Expanding Quality for Infants and Toddlers (EQIT) and Strengthening Families. She holds an AAS in Early Childhood Education from CCD and a Bachelor’s degree Organizational Management from Ashford University, San Diego, CA. She is happily married to her husband Phil, and between the two of them, they share a beautiful extended family of six and one adorable grandson.


    Jill has an extensive, well rounded background in ECE which includes over 22 years of working in every level of the field. Her experience also includes working with and supporting non-profit, for profit, traditional, Montessori, family child care home providers, religious, Head Start and Early Head Start programs. She is also skilled in ECERS and ITERS.

    As a Denver native, she is proud to be supporting the community in which she grew up. Her life goal is to coach quality so that all children have the best educational experience and to support early childhood educators on their career paths through higher education and training opportunities.


  • Margaret Scruggs
    Margaret Scruggs, Accountant

    Margaret re-joined our team in April 2015. She previously supported our work with the Denver Preschool Program from 2008-2010.

    Margaret has lived in Denver for the majority of her life.  She has an Associate in Arts, having delved into religious studies in order to have a better understanding of the beliefs of all faiths.  She originally started with the Council in 2008 and found that working for non-profits provides a wonderful sense of fulfillment and inspiration to her everyday life.  She is an avid reader and enjoys writing for herself on the side.  She loves all things science, and would be quite content to spend her days studying.

  • Mariam Shareefy
    Mariam Shareefy, Program Assistant

    Mariam is a Program Assistant at Denver’s Early Childhood Council. Prior to joining the Council in 2018, she worked for several nonprofit organizations empowering Afghan women and children, including Afghan Women’s Educational Center, Skateistan, Afghan Women’s Writing Project and Rebuild Afghanistan Summit.

    Originally from Afghanistan, Mariam moved to the United States in 2014. In her last position with a Denver-based technology company, Mariam provided technical support to nonprofits. That support included strategizing ways to help them raise funds and build active giving communities. In her free time, Mariam enjoys hiking, climbing, writing, reading and attending live music and concerts.

  • Melanie Soneson
    Melanie Soneson, Career Pathways Coordinator

    Melanie coordinates the professional development activities for the organization. While working towards her bachelor’s in International Studies in the frozen plains of Bowling Green, Ohio, Melanie decided she wanted to live in a place where the mountains are high, the flowers are wild, and she could follow her dreams in the nonprofit sector. She was thrilled to work for an organization that supports child care providers and other professionals who serve children and families.

    Although a fierce traveler at heart, Melanie also enjoys her down time by playing the piano and reading.

  • Elizabeth Williams
    Elizabeth Williams, Quality Specialist

    Elizabeth joined the Council in January 2016.  She has been involved in ECE since 2008.  Her background includes six years of teaching ages 0-6, serving both as an Assistant Teacher and Lead Teacher, primarily in Montessori settings.  Elizabeth also has experience in varying levels of administration, from Administrative Assistant to Interim Center Director.  Elizabeth received her Coaching Credential from CDE in December 2016.  This credential is the cornerstone to build upon and expand her work as a trainer, as well support her growth in her role as a Quality Specialist. In her free- time, she is completing her Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and spending time with her six-year-old daughter.  Elizabeth enjoys working in an organization that supports the Early Childhood community in Denver to bring quality care to every child.