Meet The Staff

Judy, Sarah and Lee Ann

Judith Baron (Co-Director)

Judy grew up in Billings, Montana and attended the University of Colorado, then ended up in Alb. to finish her education at UNM.  She was hired by the founder of Serendipity in 1978 to create the position of Administrative Director when Serendipity was only in its third year of business.  Thanks to her dedication to early childhood education and her belief in the importance of hands-on-learning, Serendipity is still going strong forty years later with Judy as part of the administrative team.  Her own daughter attended Serendipity at the Girard location. Judy still enjoys working with families and seeing the children develop cognitively and physically, but mostly loves the “connections, laughs and hugs.” During her spare time, Judy likes to garden, hike and play with friends.

Donna Erickson (Cook)

To simply say Donna is our cook would be an understatement. She is also our kitchen manager and does 99% of the grocery shopping at Serendipity. Donna has been at Serendipity for 15 years, and had 10 years’ professional experience before that, cooking and baking in various restaurants, hotels and retirement communities.  She has even owned a few bakeries!  Donna’s commitment to creative and culturally diverse homemade meals featuring whole grains, fresh produce and lean proteins (and sometimes homemade cookies!) makes her a perfect fit for Serendipity.  She loves hearing the children’s laughter and says the view from the kitchen window makes her smile. She enjoys watching the children “grow, blossom and discover how wonderful and unique they are.” 

Amy Ronan (Teacher)

Amy has worked with children for 6 years as a tutor, in summer programs, and as a teacher. A native New Mexican, Amy holds an AA in Secondary Education and has a BA in Liberal Arts with concentrations in Art Education and Elementary Education. Amy has been at Serendipity for almost 2 years, following in her mother’s footsteps who taught here as well. She is a talented artist, implementing her skills with the children in the classroom. When she’s not teaching, Amy likes to paint, hike and attend anything with live music.  She enjoys working with children because they “inspire us to learn and grow and look for the beauty and wonder in the world.”

Paul LaBarre (Teacher)

A 1964 Chevy brought Paul from New York to Albuquerque in the 1970’s.  He’s worked with children for almost 50 years and has been at Serendipity since 1991.  He also works as a parenting coach and child advocate for the 2nd District Judicial Court.  The connections he makes with the children and parents at Serendipity stay with him as he keeps in touch with many past families. He enjoys seeing the young adults those children have become.  In the classroom, Paul feels strongly about “providing an environment that provokes the power of child thinking and fosters creativity and helps children actualize all possibilities.”  Paul is a great storyteller and is known for acting out tales that keep children (and adults!)  captivated.  He loves the desert, mountains, and horizons of New Mexico.

Taylor Williford (Teacher)

Taylor is a full time student at UNM working towards a BA in Sociology and hopes to one day earn a Masters in Family and Marriage Counseling. Born in California but raised in Albuquerque, Taylor has been working at Serendipity since the summer of 2017.  Taylor likes reading, crafting, spending time with family and friends and exploring new places to eat. She enjoys the children’s eagerness to try and learn new things and watching them come into their own personalities. “They are so carefree, silly and loving at this age, it’s refreshing to see.” 

Magdalena “Maggie” Gonzales

Maggie started working at Serendipity in late summer of 2017. She is a relative newcomer to the preschool scene but has already shown to have a way with children.  She was born and raised in Albuquerque, enjoys local food, music and the various areas for hiking. Maggie has plans to return to school in the near future.  Maggie’s grandmother, who has been supportive throughout her life, is a source of her inspiration. She appreciates that “special and individual relationship” that develops over time with each child and loves watching them grow and learn.

Lee Ann Bower (Co-Director)

Born and raised in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Lee Ann attended college at New Mexico State University getting a BA in Public Relations/Mass Communications.  She taught preschool for 10 years in Los Alamos, moved to Alb. in 1994, spent 4 years in the classroom at Serendipity, then joined the directorship in 1998.  Lee Ann’s son attended Serendipity at both the Girard and Richmond locations.  She enjoys being around children as they “remind us of all that is good in the world.”  Lee Ann likes to garden, cook, sew, and make beaded jewelry. She loves baseball, and is a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.

Mendra Fishburn (Teacher)

Mendra has a dedicated history at Serendipity.  She herself attended Serendipity as a child and years later, so did her son. She is a native New Mexican, but spent several years in New York where she first started working with children as a nanny and in-home care provider. She has 17 years’ experience in the classroom, 15 of those at Serendipity. Mendra has 3 other children and enjoys spending time with her family, attending festivals, farmer’s markets and concerts.  Mendra feels the importance of helping children learn to respect and treasure their environment, whether it is people, plants, animals, places or materials.  She also loves helping them find their place in the class, their community and in their world, and making sure they know they have a voice and don’t have to wait until they are grown to make a difference. “Working with children is the best job in the world, their curiosity and love for their world is inspiring.”

Blair “Miss B” Bolz (Teacher)

Miss B has been at Serendipity for almost a year, but her commitment to early childhood education began 11 years ago. She’s worked with infants, 5th graders and children at Before and After School Programs as well as being a program director, assistant director, and an administrator.  She grew up in Albuquerque and the east mountain area, holds a BA in Communication from UNM and is studying art and business at CNM, pursuing an AA is Business Administration.  Blair hopes to curate a children’s art exhibition soon.  She says   “children keep me grounded and humble, they help me stay in the moment and stay in touch with my inner child.”

Juanita “Jean” Archuleta (Teacher)

Jean has had lots of different experiences with children and young people throughout her professional life. She holds an AA in Liberal Arts, was a librarian at UNM for 18 years and was also a teacher’s aide and substitute teacher for children ages 6-18.   She’s only recently become interested in early childhood education, taking workshops and classes and started at Serendipity in January of 2018.  Jean is bilingual and implements Spanish in the classroom.  Her enthusiasm for this age group is very apparent. She loves that younger children are constantly asking “why?”  She also enjoys their “laughter, honesty and unconditional friendship.”   

Suzanne Sylvestre (Teacher)

Suzanne is another staff member with longevity at Serendipity. She’s worked here for 11 years and her daughter attended Serendipity.  She was born and raised in Spokane, Washington, lived in Seattle for a while then moved to Albuquerque after her daughter was born to be closer to family.  Suzanne says working with children inspires her every day and she’s glad that her “daughter sees her working in a profession that does a service for others.”  Suzanne likes hiking, camping and taking vacations to visit friends.  

Estefani “Stef” Ortega (Teacher)

Estefani was born in Garden City, Kansas and her family moved to Albuquerque when she was 12. She’s worked with school-aged children, toddlers, and infants for 6 years. Estefani started at Serendipity in the fall of 2016. She enjoys running, hiking and spending time with her family. She “loves the honesty in children and the silly things they come up with.”  She is currently taking classes and working towards an AA in Early Childhood Education with a goal to eventually teach elementary school and “have fun doing it!” 

Sarah Urias (Co-Director)

Sarah has worked with children and families for over 16 years. She was born and raised in Albuquerque, studying Early Childhood Development at CNM and receiving a BA in History from UNM.  She worked as a pre-school teacher at Serendipity for 3 years, a family visitation monitor for 10 years and as a preschool administrator at Serendipity for 3 and half years.  In February 2018, the Serendipity Board of Directors unanimously voted Sarah in as co-director. She recently became a parent for the first time and finds daily strength and inspiration in her beautiful and fierce daughter.

Melissa Barber (Teacher)

Melissa was born in Texas, but as a military family, spent much of her childhood in different countries around the world.  She came to Albuquerque after her husband retired from the Navy and has worked at Serendipity for almost 2 years. Melissa has an AA and AS in Early Childhood Education, and has been working with children for 8 years. She has 2 children who have both volunteered at Serendipity.  She likes arts and crafts, hiking, archery and spending time with her family, including watching her children play sports.  When asked what she likes about working with children, Melissa’s answer is “just about everything!” 

Ashley Perez (Administrator)

Ashley has 10 years’ experience with school-age children and 11 years with 2-4-year-olds.  She’s in her 3rd year at Serendipity joining our staff in 2015.  Ashley grew up in Santa Fe, eventually moving to Alb. to explore life in a bigger city and attend school. She holds a BA in Elementary Education.  Ashley is inspired by her mother’s example to “live life to the fullest and enjoy the present moments in life.” Ashley likes music, crafts, sports, and gardening and often incorporates these into her curriculum in the classroom. She enjoys seeing the children smile after accomplishing something new. 

Claire Nicholson (Teacher)

Living out her childhood dream to be a teacher, Claire has over ten years’ experience working with young children. She worked at a Montessori school for over 5 years and has been teaching at Serendipity for 5 years.  Claire grew up in Taos, came to Albuquerque to attend UNM, holds an AA in Early Childhood Multi-Cultural Education and is currently working on her BA in family studies.  She loves to utilize unconventional materials in the classroom and often finds ways to use recycled items in art projects.  Claire thinks one of the best things about working with children is “watching them grow into independent, confident and caring people.”  

Michelle Gonzales (Teacher)

With over 23 “wonderful” years working with children, Michelle came to Serendipity with a lot of experience.  She’s been at Serendipity since the fall of 2016.  Michelle grew up in Albuquerque and has been a cook and classroom teacher in other Albuquerque preschools. She’s taking classes at CNM working towards her degree in Early Childhood Education. Michelle proudly confesses to being a homebody and likes watching movies or reading a good novel. She loves “hearing the children’s laughter while they play or work on a project, and seeing them reach a goal like crossing the monkey bars for the first time.”

Tina Griego (Teacher)

With over 15 years of experience in childcare, Tina has worked with almost every age group from infants to 12-year-olds, but most of those years were spent with two-year-olds. Tina has been at Serendipity since the summer of 2017. She loves watching the children “learn who they are as little humans, and being able to witness each step of their growth is pretty awesome”. A native of Albuquerque, Tina has 2 children.  She enjoys being with her family and taking her dogs to the park. She plans to further her education by returning to school to obtain her AA in ECME and to show her own children that anything is possible.