Skip navigation
Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy

Who We Are

GRAs

Heather Blizzard

Heather Blizzard

Heather Blizzard is a second year PhD student in the Research Methods and Statistics program.  She is interested in College Access, First Generation College Students, Assessment, and Data Analysis. At the Kennedy Institute, Heather analyzes data and assesses preschool children. Currently, Heather is working on the Technology-enhanced, Research-based, Instruction, Assessment, and professional Development (TRIAD) project.

Danielle Brown

Danielle Brown

Danielle Brown is a senior at the University of Denver pursuing a degree in Art History and Italian. She formerly worked as a teacher's assistant at the Fisher Early Learning Center. She has recently completed the first summer of Assistants to Infancy training at The Montessori Institute in Denver. In addition, Danielle is also an aspiring opera singer and, before majoring in Art History and Italian, attended the Lamont School of Music for Vocal Performance. At the Marsico Institute, Danielle will be concentrating on the construction of Connect 4 Learning (C4L) materials and assisting in other daily tasks.

Courtney Collins

Courtney Collins

This is Courtney’s first year in the Ed.D. Curriculum and Instruction Program and she is currently working on the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project. She has been teaching in an array of schools and grade levels over the past twelve years, including five years abroad: two years in Tokyo, Japan and three years in Caracas, Venezuela. Courtney holds a Masters of Science in Literacy and Reading from Fordham University. She is interested in collaborating with other professionals in education to develop curriculum that drives deep and divergent thinking and problem solving. 

Laura Dietert

Laura D
Laura Dietert is a Graduate Research Assistant for the Kennedy Institute, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Denver, Morgridge College of Education. She is focusing on the learning, teaching, and assessment of mathematics curriculum in her studies. Laura came to DU with a bachelor's degree in Mathematics and a M.Ed. in Mathematics from Texas State University. Laura taught middle and high school mathematics in a large urban school for several years before becoming an instructional coach for math and science teachers. At the Kennedy Institute, she is a coach for pre-k teachers implementing the interdisciplinary Connect4Learning curriculum, collects data and from these actions, and suggests revisions to the curriculum.

John Ganzar

John Ganzar
John Ganzar is a second year Ed.D student. He also teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) to adult language learners. John's research is focused on Higher Education Policy and Law in addition to  Language Acquisition theories and frameworks to aid his instructional strategies and learning outcomes. As a Denver native, he enjoys riding his bike to class and work. At the Marsico Institute, he is currently working on the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) project to update the Building Blocks Learning Trajectories (BBLT), an existing web application that constitutes a research-based teacher preparation and professional development tool for educators who teach young children mathematics. 

Paul Grimsley 

Paul Grimsley
Paul Grimsley is a second-year doctoral candidate Counseling Psychology program.  He has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and is a Licensed Addictions Counselor. Paul is interested in working with veterans, at-risk youth, and children with neurodevelopment disorders.  At the Kennedy Institute, Paul is assisting with the Creating Better, Smarter Assessments: The CREMAT Project. His experience with psychological and cognitive assessments supports his work doing field testing with elementary school students. 

Kayanne Klipka

K K
Kayanne Klipka is a first-year Master’s candidate in the Library and Information Sciences program. Before starting her studies at the University of Denver, she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Seattle Pacific University and worked within the education and non-profit sectors. Kayanne is assisting with the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics grant in the Kennedy Institute. Her work at Kennedy mostly consists of fieldwork within early childhood education classrooms.  

Ksenia Kuskova-Burns

Ksenia

Ksenia Kuskova-Burns is a Ph.D. candidate in the Research Methods and Statistics degree program at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education. She serves as a data analyst for Kennedy Institute working on projects that include Connect4Learning (C4L) and the Technology-enhanced, Research-based, Instruction, Assessment, and professional Development (TRIAD).  She is currently applying her skills to collaborate on journal articles related to her research on mathematics learning. Previously, Ms. Kuskova-Burns has worked on a grant funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation conducting statistical analyses to inform student math outcomes in middle schools and high schools.  She has experience in quantitative and qualitative methods that include hierarchical linear modeling, multiple regression, and field interviews.  Her interests include using advanced research methods in program evaluation, statistics, and survey design. 

Kim Mahovsky

Kim Mahovsky
Kim Mahovsky is currently pursuing her educational doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on mathematics education.  She is also the director of the Comprehensive Research-Based Early Math Ability Test (CREMAT) project, under the supervision of Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama.  Previously, a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher, for 10 years in Georgia and Virginia, she has always had a passion for math education for those students pursuing a degree in elementary education.  The research conducted under the CREMAT project allows Kim to profile children’s understanding of early mathematical ideas, including counting, arithmetic, measurement, geometry, and algebraic thinking. As project director, Kim is in charge of collaboration, revision, and integration of the work and results of the three main groups working on the project.  She has submitted publications to AACT and looks forward to presenting at several conferences in the future around her research with CREMAT.  

Theresa "Trez" Malatesta

trez
Trez Malatesta is a first year graduate student in the Higher Education program. She completed her undergrad at Penn State with a B.A. in Telecommunications. Trez gained her skills from working with media production and radio while attending Penn State. She also was a student leader by being involved in student government, creating diverse organizations and programs on her campus and participating in writing policies to update Pennsylvania's anti-bullying laws. Along with being passionate about telecommunications and social media, Trez is also passionate about student leadership, inclusive excellence, policy and student affairs. Trez is the Graduate Student Research Administrator of Marketing and Web for the Marsico Institute and the Kennedy Institute. She helps to maintain and further develop both Marsico and Kennedy Institutes' website, adding new content while expanding Marsico and Kennedy's  social media presence. 

Tara Meister

Tara Meister

Tara Meister, a second-year PhD candidate in the Curriculum and Instruction program, supports the Kennedy Institute’s Connect4Learning: Early Childhood Education in the Context of Mathematics, Science, and Literacy, an inquiry-based, integrated preschool curriculum. She has also participated in work with New York City’s Pre-K For All implementation of the Building Blocks curriculum and has supported professional development in the area of early childhood math. Tara taught secondary English in Denver-area schools for 7 years and obtained a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction through the Boettcher Teachers’ Program. During her time as a teacher, Tara worked to implement culturally responsive pedagogy, develop curricula, and reflect on her practice and the role of her and her students’ identities. She has taught courses in DU's Teacher Education Program on teaching English Language Learners and has worked on a research project for effective teacher evaluation and equitable teaching practices. She previously coached high school sports, and seeks to research and utilize lessons from coaching in education. Tara’s research interests include educational equity, discourse, critical race theory, identity development, and culturally responsive pedagogy. 

Brianna Mestas

 Brianna Mestas

Brianna Mestas is a first-year PhD candidate in the Curriculum and Instruction program.  Brianna received her BA in Ethnic Studies from CU Boulder and her MA in Instruction and Curriculum with a focus in Urban Education with the Boettcher Teacher Program at DU.  She taught ESL, Kindergarten, 1st, and 4th grade in Title I schools for five years in the Denver Metro area, and spent the last two years teaching 3rd grade overseas at the International School of Panama.  Brianna is passionate about working with linguistically and culturally diverse students and families.  As a GRA with the Marsico Institute, Brianna will be working on the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project. 

Bruce Miller

Brice Miller

Bruce G. Miller is a first-year Doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Denver. He has his Colorado Teaching Certificate and is currently interested in teaching at
the University level. Bruce has a BA from University of Northern Colorado and a MA from Lesley University in Massachusetts. He has been a public school teacher for over thirty-one years with: Grand County in Utah, Adams County 50 in Denver, and Jefferson County also in Denver. Bruce's Assistantship is with the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics Project. He plans to learn the newest techniques and advancements in the Educational field so he can pass these on to current and future teachers.

Emma Mooso

Emma Mooso

Emma Mooso is just beginning her journey in the Higher Education program at University of Denver. She is interested in student affairs and the aspects of higher education that shape a student’s experience outside of the classroom. Emma is assisting with the new Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics research project.

Jessica Morganfield

Jessica Morganfield

Jessica Morganfield is a first-year Research Methods and Statistics Master’s student.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Communication with a concentration in Rhetorical Theory from the University of Denver. She is working on the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project.  Working on the Kennedy Institute project is a valuable opportunity that will enable Jessica to put the theories and concepts from the RMS program into practice.

Becky Myrold

 Becky Myrold

Becky Myrold is a first year graduate student in the Library and Information Science program. Past focus areas have included youth physical activity and the sustainability of that activity, bike safety programs, and the prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral challenges within the population. To this end she completed her first master’s degree in prevention science from Washington State University with a thesis evaluating a local bike safety program for young children. Her current focus is to explore the information industry to better allow access to all populations in a variety of settings. At the Marsico Institute, she is currently working on the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) project to update the Building Blocks Learning Trajectories (BBLT), an existing web application that constitutes a research-based teacher preparation and professional development tool for educators who teach young children mathematics.  

Aleis Pugia

Aleis Pugia

Aleis Pugia is a first year M.A. student in the Counseling Psychology program. She is interested in working with at-risk children and families and providing greater access to multicultural therapy for diverse, low income families. Aleis worked in education for five years prior to coming to DU, teaching middle school and coaching first and second year teachers. She also has her M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Arizona State University. At the Marsico Institute, she is currently working on the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) project to update the Building Blocks Learning Trajectories (BBLT), an existing web application that constitutes a research-based teacher preparation and professional development tool for educators who teach young children mathematics.  To support this work, she uses her experience in education to use technology to document the use of the learning trajectories for teachers and parents.

Dan Riordan, Jr.

Dan Riordan
Dan is a first year Ed.D. student in the Curriculum and Instruction program. Before enrolling at DU, he taught middle school and high school English in Minnesota and Wisconsin. During his teaching career, he has also been a boys' and girls' high school basketball coach. He has a BA in English from Saint Mary's University and an MST from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His research interests include studying how teachers cope with stress as well as the effectiveness of novice teacher support and induction programs. At the Marsico Institute, he is currently working on the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) project to update the Building Blocks Learning Trajectories (BBLT) website.

Holly roof

Holly Roof
Holly Roof is a Ph.D. candidate in the Research Methods and Statistics degree program at the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education. At the Marsico Institute, she is currently working on the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) project. Ms. Roof has been a community college teacher for many years and is interested in teaching at the university level. She has experience in quantitative and qualitative research methods that include multiple regression, hierarchical linear modeling, and field interviews. Her research interests include intimate learning environments, gifted education, and equestrian sports.

Marisa Simoni

Marisa Simoni

Marisa Simoni is a first year Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) candidate in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program with a concentration in Early Childhood. Marisa has previously worked with school psychologists in the Wyoming School District, where her work in assessment and data analysis focused on early childhood and middle school students. Her interests involve working with students who have autism spectrum disorder, students with behavior/emotional impairments, and underprivileged populations, specifically in early education. Marisa is currently working on the Development and Research in Early Mathematics and Education (DREME) Network grant. She works on projects focused on developing early childhood activities that support the development of math and executive function, as well as those examining the relationship between district and schools efforts to support continuity and coherence of early learning opportunities and student experiences related to mathematics. 

Anne van Gondelle

Anne van Gondelle

Anne van Grondelle is a second year Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) candidate in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program with a concentration in Early Childhood.  Anne received a M.S. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.A. in Economics from Wellesley College.  Her interests include: the development of executive function skills in both early childhood and adolescence, the relationship between mental health and executive function, inclusion models for individuals with a disability, and school-family partnering that is supportive of students who have experienced chronic life stress.  Prior to pursing her degree at the University of Denver, Anne worked in research labs studying protective and risk factors for the development of child psychopathology such as temperament, empathy, and trauma.  She also worked in inclusive programming through the Madison, WI school district.  At the Marsico Institute, Anne is assisting on projects through the Development and Research in Early Mathematics and Education (DREME) Network, with a focus on early childhood instructional activities that support the development of mathematics and executive functions, and continuity between early childhood and early elementary learning experiences.

Gabrielle Witherill

Gabby Witherill

Gabrielle Witherill is a second year Educational Specialist candidate in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program with a concentration in Early Childhood. Gabrielle is interested in working with students and families of diverse cultural backgrounds within the early childhood setting, specifically about the importance of mental health. Her other interest include working and supporting students and families of those who have experienced trauma. As a Graduate Research Assistant, Gabrielle has been involved in preschool assessment, materials management, and data analysis. 

Keaton Zucker

Keaton Zucker

 

Keaton Zucker is a fourth year Counseling Psychology doctoral candidate. She has clinical experience providing therapy to diverse adolescent and adult populations at college counseling and community mental health centers, and neuropsychological assessment with children and adolescents. Keaton’s research interests include the impact of social class on career development and psychological processes, the impact of relationships on athletic satisfaction and performance, college-to-career transition, and suicide prevention. She has presented some of these topics at national conferences.  At the Kennedy Institute, Keaton works on the CREMAT grant and is responsible for field testing math assessments to elementary school students, and assisting with data entry and data video verification.

Krystine Zytka

Krystine

Kristine Zytka is a first-year Doctoral candidate in the Child, Family, and School Psychology PhD Pathways program at the University of Denver. She recently earned an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst upon completion of a 10-month School Psychology internship in a Connecticut school district. While completing this internship Kristine also spent three months working as a temporary School Psychologist for one elementary school and the district preschool program. Some of Kristine’s interests include data-based decision making, social-emotional knowledge in early childhood, and the use of cognitive behavioral strategies for addressing anger in children. At the Kennedy Institute, Kristine is assisting with an IES-funded project, “Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics”. The proposed project will evaluate the use of learning trajectories with training experiments in preschool classrooms.