Meet Our Staff

We are Kind, We are Passionate, We have Integrity, We are Progressive & We put our Communities and Families First

Our staff has over 50 years of combined experience

Ben Poswalk

Ben Poswalk

Executive Director

Hello, I’m Ben Poswalk (a.k.a Mr. Ben), and have had the honor of serving as the Executive Director of Paradise Place Preschool since 2011. Prior to becoming the director, I was a teacher in both our Doves and Whales classes for 3 years. I have BA in Kinesiology and Applied Physiology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a BA in Human Performance emphasis in Education K-12 from Metropolitan State College of Denver. Additionally I have earned my Director Qualification form Arapahoe College in Denver. When I’m not enjoying spending time with the children and families of Paradise Place; I like to spend it with my own family. We do our best to take advantage of the many opportunities that the Crested Butte Community has to offer like skiing, concerts, hiking, camping and so much more! I welcome the opportunity to get to know you and your family soon. It is a privilege to share in this wonderful time of growth and development in these little one’s lives. Mr. Ben
Personal Info:

Title

Executive Director

Degree

Kinesiology and Applied Physiology; Human Performance

Years at Paradise Place

10

My Hobby

Getting Outdoors: Skiing, Hiking, Camping.
Gwyn Grier

Gwyn Grier

Program director

My favorite thing about early childhood is experiencing first hand young children’s joy of learning and their love for their peers and teachers. Really, I love it all – even the hard stuff – there is never a dull day in preschool and the children always challenge me to be a better teacher and person.
Personal Info:

Title

Program Director

Degree

Early Childhood Education

Years at Paradise Place

10

My Hobby

Teaching Aerial Dancing, Skiing, Climbing, Running
Allison Poswalk

Allison Poswalk

Lambs Teacher

Working with the families in this community has been such a rewarding career choice for me. After raising my two daughters as a stay at home Mom I have a unique perspective on the benefits of early childhood education. In fostering warm and loving relationships with the students and their families we are able to help nurture and support healthy social emotional development as well as form a solid foundation for academic success.
It is amazing to watch the growth from the first day in the Lambs classroom to graduation in the Whales class. It brings such joy to watch the positive impact we can have through these relationships with our Crested Butte families. I truly believe in the positive impact of early childhood education and feel privileged to be a part of our Paradise Place community.
Personal Info:

Degree

Childhood Education

Class Educator

Lambs

Years at Paradise Place

7

My Hobby

Hiking, Skiing, Snowshoeing

Allison Dolloff

Whales

Hi! I’m Allison Dolloff. I grew up in Littleton, Colorado and recently moved to Gunnison in August. I am also a recent May 2020 graduate from the University of Wyoming. I have my degrees in psychology, criminal justice and sociology. I fell in love with developmental and behavioral psychology from my studies but also from my past experience as a head swim coach.
I grew up in a household of many teachers and have a passion for teaching and understanding the minds of kids! I like to spend my time fly fishing, hiking, and snowmobiling in the winter. I am so excited to be a new teacher at Paradise Place and working in the Whales classroom.

Kaleigh Nethington

Whales

Hi! My name is Kaleigh Kane! I am a new teacher here at Paradise Place. I started working here over the summer in late June. I now work in the Whales class on MWF afternoon. I am a full time student at Western Colorado University. I just began my Junior year there! I am majoring in Elementary education with a minor in Mathematics. I grew up in Delta, Co, so not too far from here. In June of 2019 I married my high school sweetheart! Right after getting married we moved to Gunnsion. We both have been working up at CBMR and have really enjoyed working on the backside of the ski industry. I love adventuring in the Mountains, playing disc golf with my husband, and of course spending time with tiny humans. My grandma and my mom were both preschool teachers, and my mom is still a reading interventionist at an elementary school. So loving kids and being an educator is just in my blood! I am happy to be at Paradise and spend any free time I have loving on all our wonderful Paradise kiddos!
Megan Wilson

Megan Willson

Lambs Teacher

Hello! I’m Mrs. Megan and I joined the Lambs class in May of 2020. It has been such an exciting and rewarding experience! I love coming to work each day as I am greeted by happy little smiling faces! I am passionate about caring for children & being able to help them learn & grow. My husband and I moved to CB in November of 2018.
I feel very grateful to live, work, and play in this beautiful valley. When I am not at Paradise Place you can find me hiking, paddle boarding, camping, skiing, and ice skating. We have three furry four-legged children named Peanut, Oliver, and Pearl who love the mountains just as much as we do. I am looking forward to making a positive impact in our community and in the lives of the children here in CB for many years to come!

Class Educator

Lambs

Years at Paradise Place

1

My Hobby

Hiking, Paddle Boarding, Camping, Skiing, and Ice Skating
Leah Starinieri

Leah Starinieri

Lambs Teacher

My name is Leah Starinieri and I began at Paradise Place Preschool in June and I have been teaching in the Lambs class. I am looking forward to teaching in the Lions class this upcoming school year! I am dedicated to my faith, family, and educating children. I have been married to my husband, Jason for 23 years and we moved to Gunnison for his pastor position. My son John is studying Conservation Biology/Entomology at CSU Fort Collins. My daughter Hannah just graduated from High School and will begin a degree in English at Western in the Fall. My daughter Lydia will be a Junior at Gunnison High School.  
I have my Master’s degree in Education with my emphasis on Instruction and Curriculum for the Inclusive Classroom and my Professional teaching license. I have taught in a variety of schools both private and public. Within those educational institutions I have taught toddlers through high school aged students. I feel privileged to be part of the lives of young children and their families. My hope is to help students grow in any way I can.
Personal Info:

Degree

Education

Class Educator

Lambs

Years at Paradise Place

1

My Hobby

Family, Reading, Hiking

Melody Barge

Whales Teacher

My name is Ms.Melody. I am the lead teacher in the Whales classroom. I have been with Paradise Place since we re-opened May 4th. I am a Detroit native, having recently moved to Crested Butte in mid-March from Colorado Springs. I taught preschool there for twenty-five years. Needless to say I love my work.
My passions are hiking, art, music, settling in with a good book, and getting to know new people. I am excited to be apart of this beautiful community, as all my grandchildren reside here as well as one of my son’s and his wife. I look forward to getting to know all of you, exploring Crested Butte and spending a great year with our Whales!
Personal Info:

Degree

Education

Class Educator

Whales

Years at Paradise Place

1

My Hobby

Hiking and the outdoors
Monique Gonzalez

Monique Gonzalez

Doves Teacher

Hello my name is Monique but you could call me Mo if it’s easier! I was born and raised in Colorado Springs and I went to James Irwin Charter School for 12 years. I am 21 and will be turning 22 October 29th. A little bit about my childhood is that I love being active and I love playing basketball. I have been playing basketball since I was 9 and I did volleyball and track for 7 years. From the time I can remember, I’ve always loved helping people. I was very quiet and shy as a child but as I got older and experienced different things I started coming out of my shell. I’m a little shy still but I feel like Paradise Place will be a big help with my interactions with new people. Since I was a little girl I wanted to be a teacher, but I was not allowed to go to school for teaching, so I did two years for my psychology degree. I realized that I was struggling working 10-16 hours a day as a banquet server and going to school at Metro State University. I was still in love with basketball so I had an opportunity to go to North Carolina to pursue my basketball dream. At the beginning of the season I had a serious foot injury that forced me to quite basketball. I had came back to Colorado Springs last year because my grandmother was sick and I stayed because she had passed in November. I started living with my dad and came across a job as a pre k teacher in Castle Rock called Castle Academy.
We were a Montessori school, so we focused on teaching the kids with sensory projects, puzzles, number games, ect. When I was there I started realizing that I wanted to be more than just an assistant teacher. I started researching and came to the fact that I love working with kids and I love the one on one you can have with a child. The next step I want to take is becoming a Registered Behavioral Technician. Now what that is, if you don’t know, is it works one on one with autistic kids. You teach them how to conquer everyday struggles and actions. My main focus for a child is to help them to be able to learn the skills to live an everyday life and all of the outcomes that are part of life. So I was given the opportunity to move to Gunnison and the opportunity from Paradise Place to help your child feel loved and feel like they are able to go a-bouts this world on their own and give them every tool they need to succeed. I cannot wait to start my journey at Paradise Place and work with your kids and help them grow! 😊
Dillan Espeset

Dillan Espeset

Lions Teacher

Working with children is so rewarding to me. I love helping children learn and grow both in their education and with their emotional skills. I always have a smile on my face at the end of the day. Each child has something unique to share with the world, and I’m excited to walk with them through their journey.
Personal Info:

Degree

Agricultural Engineering

Class Educator

Lions

Years at Paradise Place

2

My Hobby

Running, Hiking, Yoga, Baking
Carie Mitchell

Carie Mitchell

Child Find Coordinator

Carie is the Child Find Coordinator and early childhood special educator for the Gunnison Watershed School District. She has recently completed her Pyramid Plus trainer certification and is also a Pyramid Plus coach. Carie works in Crested Butte coaching teachers in social-emotional development.
Personal Info:

Degree

Childhood Childhood Special Education

Years at Paradise Place

4

My Hobby

Hiking, Biking, Skiing

Andreea Nisbett

Hi, I’m Andreea. Born in Eastern Europe (Romania) my desire for travel brought me to the states where I chose to further my passion for working and helping children grow and develop. In 2012 I began my career in child development. It has allowed me to gain the insight and knowledge to help grow young minds and influence them to be productive and inspirational leaders in the community.
I do believe that, even they will not remember me once they will become adults, my words will be stuck in their mind and actions forever.

Karen Jansen

Music/Spanish

One of my greatest joys is sharing my love of music with children!  I have lived in Crested Butte over half my life, and have been a teacher of some sort the entire time. I began Munchkin’s Music and Dance (classes for the youngest musicians) over 15 years ago, and also run a successful private teaching business (where I offer classes in piano, guitar, and mandolin).  I also enjoy teaching Spanish–I taught preschool and kindergarten in Costa Rica for a couple years, where I grew to love the language.  Besides singing and playing music, I love to write and be outside hiking, biking or Nordic/backcountry skiing whenever possible.

website:  www.musicincb.com

Mia Hill - Doves

Mia Hill

Doves Teacher

My name is Mia Hill. I am a senior at CBCS. I will be doing a work study in the dove room. I am so excited about this opportunity . I can not wait to get to know your children. This will be such a good experience as I plan on pursuing a career with children. After my senior year I hope to study to become a pediatric nurse.

Morgan Raspanti

Doves Teacher

Hi, my name is Ms. Morgan and I am very excited to be joining the Doves classroom as an assistant teacher this school year!

I was born in New Jersey and I just moved to Crested Butte from New York, where I had lived since 2013. There I was studying at The New School, first for my Bachelors degree in Global Studies and then, for my Masters degree in International Affairs with a concentration in Media and Culture. Over the years I have worked in a variety of early childhood environments, including two different preschool classrooms, as an NJ State Certified Substitute Teacher and as a Nanny. In addition, I have also worked as a Teaching Assistant in undergraduate and graduate classrooms. My professional experience is varied but some of the most rewarding work I’ve done is with young children. Helping a child navigate their process of development is an enriching experience and I feel so fortunate to be a part of our students growth here at Paradise Place!

Ms. Madeline

Lions Teacher

Hi there! I am Ms. Madeline and I joined the Lions class in December of 2020 to help out while Mrs. Dillan prepares for her little one that is on the way.  It has already been so fun and rewarding! 

I was born in Gunnison but moved away when I was young. I have always wanted to move back to the area and was lucky enough to get the chance in early December. I moved to Crested Butte from San Luis Obispo, California where I finished my undergrad at California Polytechnic State University. I graduated with a degree in Environmental Management and Protection and a minor in Child Development. I fell in love with teaching while in college during two internships leading nature hikes and teaching different science subjects to K-6th graders in an afterschool program. I also worked at a daycare while doing a student exchange in Montana for a semester. These experiences helped me realize my main career goal is to teach outdoor education to young children because of all its benefits for development and so I can teach them to love the beautiful outdoors as much as I do. In my free time I love to do yoga, run, rock climb, snowboard, hike and knit. I am so honored to help instill a sense of joy for learning and help the kiddos at Paradise Place flourish into extraordinary tiny human beings. 

We promote physical, mental and moral growth using the Pyramid Plus Model in our Reggio Emilia inspired classrooms.