Our Staff

At Washington Park Early Learning Center we believe children learn through play. Therefore, our teachers craft an early childhood education program that provides ample opportunity for children to explore, create, ask questions, and take risks. We also believe an early childhood program should enrich the whole child, including their social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development.  Our teachers support this belief and create an atmosphere where each child takes flight with confidence.


Kristi Franko
Director / Lead Teacher – Parent-Tot

Kristi Franko is WPELC’s Director and lead Parent-Tot class teacher. She has been teaching for 18 years and has spent the last four years at WPELC. Kristi completed the Stanley British Primary School Teacher Preparation Program in 2002. She has a Master’s in Educational Psychology from CU Denver, with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education.

She had the opportunity to focus on her passion for Early Childhood Education at Paddington Station Preschool, where she worked for 14 years. In addition to teaching two-, three-, and four-year olds, she recently coached teachers for PEBC (Public Education & Business Coalition) through the Boettcher Teacher Residency Teacher Preparation Program and was the Site-Coordinator at Paddington Station Preschool, coaching, and supporting the Kindergarten and Pre-K teachers.

In her free time Ms. Kristi enjoys cooking, live music, getting to the mountains, researching the ever-changing field of Early Childhood Education, and spending time with her two daughters and husband.


Christina deVarona
Lead Teacher – Preschool

Christina is our Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Preschool Teacher and has been teaching at Washington Park Early Learning Center since 1998. She holds an MA in Early Childhood Education from the University of Colorado. Christina participated in the Stanley British Primary internship program both as an intern and mentor teacher. She has enjoyed working with young children and their families in education since 1991. Her experience as a teacher, a director of private and parent cooperative preschools, and a music and movement teacher enriches her classroom approach daily.

Christina has taught classes and held seminars for teachers in music and movement, storytelling, early childhood environments, and creativity. Christina also taught curriculum classes at Arapahoe Community College.

In her free time she loves listening to and playing music, spending time with friends and family and going on hikes with her dog, Oscar. She has three children: Zoe, Joe and Lucy.

Kara Burnham
Lead Teacher – Preschool

Kara Burnham is our Lead Teacher for the Preschool class held on Tuesday and Thursday. Kara received an internship with the Stanley British Primary School Teacher Preparation Program where she earned her teaching certificate and obtained a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She taught at Paddington Station Preschool for 10 years in a play-based setting where she worked with three- and four-year olds for many years and ran a Parent-Tot program for two years. Kara also was a mentor for Early Childhood Education interns through the SBPS Teacher Preparation Program and later became an Advisor to Early Childhood Education interns going through the program.

In her free time, Kara enjoys spending time with her family, including her seven-year old daughter and 10 year old son. She also enjoys hiking, cooking, reading and traveling. Kara is so excited to be back in a play-based setting working with preschool aged children.

Kara Chitwood
Administrative Assistant / Associate Teacher – Early Learner

Kara Chitwood has been our school’s Administrative Assistant since 2016, assisting the Director with general school operations, enrollment and bookkeeping. Additionally, she has been a favorite substitute since 2012 and continues to sub in our Preschool and Early Learner classrooms as needed. This year, she will jump into the classroom consistently as the Early Learner Associate Teachers on Mondays.

Kara has a degree in Physical and Health Education from UW-Madison and extensive experience working both with youth and in health education: teaching high school Physical Education and Health for 5+ years; coaching various sports; peer education and counseling at a summer camp for kids with HIV/AIDS; volunteering as a Parent Partner in the NICU at Children’s Hospital Colorado; and being an active member of the school PTO when her daughters were in middle school. Her time at Washington Park Early Learning Center began in 2009 when her oldest daughter attended our school, and it continued with her younger daughter attending WPELC in 2012.

Kara has taught both prenatal and postnatal yoga, and her students have included quite a few WPELC moms! Her interests include going to concerts, practicing yoga, hiking with friends and family, enjoying yummy food and drink with friends, traveling, and attempting to read books for her book club in a timely manner.

Katie Green
Lead Teacher – Early Learner

Katie Green is our Lead Teacher for the Early Learner class held on Tuesday and Thursday. Katie is a former WPELC parent who began teaching at our school in 2017. Her teaching career began as an English teacher in Japan. Upon returning from that adventure, she realized she loved working with young children and went on to earn her Masters in Early Childhood Education. Her experience includes teaching at a few local preschools, Early Childhood Education-Second Grade in DPS, and leading Music Together Classes.    

Katie’s interests include traveling, reading, solving puzzles and Escape Rooms, and singing in the Swallow Hill Music Center Choir. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and two teenagers.

Ms Tina

Tina Mitchell
Lead Teacher – Early Learner

Tina Mitchell is our Lead Teacher for the Early Learner class held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She has an Associates degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor’s from CSU in Human Development and Family Studies. She taught preschool for 12 years before moving to a job working with at risk children.

Both of Tina’s children attended WPELC and she was very active in the school. She was on the board and volunteered numerous hours, and continued to sub after her children graduated. It was during her years here that Tina saw how amazing it was to have such a close-knit school community, and after eight years, both Tina and her children still have friendships that were formed at WPELC!

She loves to go to the mountains with her family to hike, bike, and ski, and she spends a lot of time in the water in the summer. During the school year she also spends a lot of time driving her highly social 16 and 18 years olds around to various activities.

Ms. Tina is so excited to be at our school to help guide your children through this incredible time in their lives. “You couldn’t have made a better choice for your children! Know that!”

Lara Laws
Associate Teacher – Preschool

Lara Laws started in 2019 at WPELC as an Associate teacher, and works in the Monday, Wednesday and Friday Preschool class with Ms. Christina. 

Her educational career started right after high school working at an early childhood school on the east coast for children with special needs. After becoming formally trained as a Montessori teacher/guide, she taught both pre-school and kindergarten for 14 years in the Washington, DC area as well as in Denver. For the last five years, she’s worked in a Waldorf Public School assisting the lead preschool and kindergarten teacher.

Ms. Lara has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education. She is certified in both infant/toddler and primary Montessori education. Her educational classes include coursework towards Early Childhood Education director qualification, courses in conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, diversity training, mind/body connection, Brain gym, body safe awareness and other related courses. She also studied Waldorf philosophy through a Foundations Studies course.

Lara has two daughters ages 13 and 16. Their family’s interests include skiing, hiking, camping, traveling, and spending time with friends. When she has spare time, Lara enjoys doing yoga, attending her book club, and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Rachel Homlar
Associate Teacher – Early Learner

Since 2014, Rachel has had the experience of working with four talented teachers at WPELC, and has assisted in both Preschool and Early Learner classes. This year she will be the Associate teacher in the Early Learner class on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as the Associate Teacher in the Tuesday/Thursday Early Learner class.

Rachel’s experience as a preschool teacher has given her an opportunity to work with early learners of all ages, using her creative arts background. She has spent most time in the classroom working with children ages of three and four, but she also has experience teaching toddlers from fourteen months of age, up to five year old children.

Rachel has her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Xavier University. She is delighted to have the opportunity to work in this incredible parent cooperative!

Valerie Stokeld
Associate Teacher – Preschool

Val is the Associate teacher in the Tuesday/Thursday Preschool class. She has her Master’s in Moderate to Severe Special Education from Notre Dame de Namur University and is a Doctoral Candidate in Special Education at The University of San Francisco. In her studies, she is currently conducting research on the personal autonomy of autistic adults and how societal perception of their needs/desires may differ from their actual needs/desires.  

Valerie was a Special Education teacher for 12 years teaching autistic individuals. She taught in elementary school, middle school, and high school/adult transition (ages 18-22) to better understand the differing needs of her students as they grow into adults.

Currently, Valerie is a stay at home mom to her three children, ages three, five, and seven. She has been working with children for as long as she can remember as a babysitter, camp counselor, and nanny. Her hobbies include reading, hiking, camping and cycling. She is very excited to be part of the WPELC team.