Child Development Center

San Jacinto Staff

Listed alphabetically, by first name.

photo of celinaCelina Garcia

San Jacinto Rainbows Teacher (Threes and Fours)

Favorite Children’s Book:“The Girl who Loved Wild Horses” by Paul Goble

Celina has been working in child development for over 16 years when she join the UTCDC team in 2015. She began her career when her son began preschool. Focusing on nature, art, and science, are important to Celina. You can catch her class digging in mud searching for worms, elbows deep in paint and glitter,  and collecting all the beautiful things we find in our backyards. Celina has worked towards her CDA and is currently finishing a bachelor’s degree in Art Education.

At home, Celina enjoys spending time with her son, Noah, and their new extended family.  They love going out into nature, exploring the greenbelt, and listening to music. She is also a painter and a sculptor, specializing in pet and family portraits.


photo of eileenEileen Vasquez

San Jacinto Leaping Frogs Teacher (Pre-K)

Favorite Children's Book: Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo

Eileen graduated from the University of Texas in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Learning and Development. "Hook 'em Horns!" She taught preschool at the Dell Jewish Community Center and was a first grade teacher with Round Rock ISD. Eileen has been married to Andy Vasquez since 1986 and has two children, Isabella, a graphic designer in Seattle and Aidan who is completing his degree in Arts and Technology at UT Dallas.

In her spare time Eileen enjoys spending time with her husband, walking her dog, Luna, shopping and reading on her Kindle.


photo of ericaErica Lopez

San Jacinto Ositos Teacher (Twos and Threes)

Favorite book: I love you forever by Robery Munsch and Sheila McGraw

Erica was born and raised in Laredo, TX. She moved to Austin after spending most of her childhood summers with family. She has been working with children for 8 years, and has been with UTCDC since 2010. Erica's favorite age group is two to three year olds because of the growth and development they display throughout the time they are enrolled in her classroom.

Erica is currently attending Austin Community College to study child development. In her spare time, Erica enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and listening to live music.


photo of haraHara Cootes

UTCDC Program Director

Favorite Children’s Book: The King’s Equal by Katherine Paterson

Hara has been with the Child Development Center since 1992. She holds a bachelor’s degree in child development from Texas State University, and a Masters of Education from The University of Texas. Before bringing her gifts to us she worked as a summer camp administrator. She also has years of experience as a child care consultant for the city of Austin, and as a member of Austin Community College’s adjunct faculty.

Hara is busy while away from work managing one daughter and two sons. She and her husband spend many hours watching the kids at swimming and diving events. In her spare time Hara has a small photography business and enjoys quilting.


photo of hildaHilda Harnden

San Jacinto Administrative Assistant

Favorite Children’s Books: Curious George series by H. A. Rey; The Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein; Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Hilda grew up moving around the country which led to her attending 33 schools and 3 colleges before graduating with a major in History. After moving to Austin with her husband and son she began worked at Bethany Lutheran Child Care Center in their administration. Fortunately, in 2010, Hilda came to work at UTCDC and with her 13 years of experience immediately became an asset. One thing she has learned over the years - when around children there is never a dull moment! Although she is not in the classroom with them, she is able to watch the progress each child makes – from walking, to talking to sharing the day with their parents.

When not working, Hilda enjoys reading and working in the yard. She is active in two bunco groups, does fun activities with “Empty Nester” friends, enjoys plays, going out to eat with friends and playing games.


photo of jenniferJennifer Acebedo

San Jacinto All Stars Teacher (Pre-K)

Favorite Children’s Books: The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola and anything by Mo Williams

Jennifer joined the UTCDC staff in April 2011 after moving to Austin. She has been working in early childhood education classrooms since 1998. During her career, she has had the opportunity to have worked with children 6 weeks to school age. Jennifer will receive her Associates Degree in Child Development from Austin Community College in May 2015.

What Jennifer loves most about children is their natural curiosity and unique view of our world. She loves to introduce new ideas to them to discovery in his or her own way. Having conversations and listening to their stories is one of Jennifer’s greatest joys.

Jennifer is originally from San Diego, California. When she is not teaching in the All Star classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends and her black lab mix, Ruby.


photo of joyceJoyce Stamatis

San Jacinto Monkeys Teacher (Threes and Fours)

Favorite Children’s Book: Counting Monkeys by Mac Barnett

Joyce was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois where her love for the Bears, Bulls, the Cubs, and Notre Dame grew! She received her Bachelor’s Degree at Hyles-Anderson College in 2009. As a student, she was asked to substitute and realized she had a love for teaching.

Joyce was a preschool teacher at a Montessori school for three years and a co-teacher for a toddler classroom for one year until she moved to Austin. Joyce loves to incorporate music, Spanish, and art into everything that she teaches. She strives to make connections not only with her students but also with her student’s parents. Her goal is to make her classroom a magical place that fosters creativity and learning.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, going on fun dates with her husband, design, and when she is not singing-she is known for a good lip-sync battle.


photo of lauraLaura Genz

San Jacinto Assistant Site Director

Favorite Children’s Books: Dragons Love Tacos, The Big Tidy Up and A Giraffe and a Half

Laura was born and raised in Kingsville, Texas. After graduating from Texas State University with a major in Psychology and minor in Child Development, she moved to Austin. She was employed at Head Start for a short time and then starting working at The Child Development Center at Congregation Beth Israel for the next 16 ½  years. She held several different jobs while there including teacher, Assistant Director, and Program Director. Laura joined UTCDC in 2016.

Laura has always held a special place in her heart for young children. She has dedicated her career to providing quality care and education for young children, both in and out of the classroom.

She and her husband, Kiai, live in South Austin with their dog, Cora. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family, playing board games with friends, swimming in their pool, and watching football and soccer.



photo of leahLeah Davis

San Jacinto Bumblebees Teacher (Infants)

Favorite Children's Book: Love Is A Handful of Honey

Born and raised in Austin, Leah joined UTCDC in 2003 as a Peek-a-boos teacher, brining to the center her radiant personality and over 11 years of child care experience. Her favorite thing about working here is the sense of closely-knit and supportive community of teachers, staff, parents, and children. Ms. Leah loves to hear her Bumblebees' laugh when she reads Love Is a Handful of Honey to them. When she is not loving on our babies, she is spending time with her daughter, Ari, scrap-booking, reading, and watching movies.


photo of leahLeah Opito

San Jacinto Penguins Teacher (Threes and Fours)

Favorite book:

Leah was born and raised in Manchester, CT and moved to Hutto early July 2015. Leah has an Associates degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in Child Study with a minor is Psychology. She has known since she began college that working with children and families was something that she loved. Leah was working as a preschool teacher for 4 years before joining the UTCDC team.

Leah loves to incorporate science and art in everything she plans for her children. Her goal is to always have a meaningful, enriching plan to foster enjoyablelearning for all of her kiddos!

In her spare time, Leah enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and working out. She also loves to cook....and EAT!!


photo of LeticiaLeticia Flores

San Jacinto Dragonflies Teacher (Toddlers)

Favorite Children’s Book: The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

Leticia moved to Austin in 1991 and began her career as a childcare provider with UT Child Dev. Center. Her son attended the UTCDC for the four years she was with us. After she left she continued working at a local school and took over their infant program. Leticia received her Child Development Associate credential in 2009. We were fortunate to have Leticia bring her talents back to the UTCDC in the spring of 2011.

Leticia makes her classroom a joyful and fun place for children to develop. She loves teaching the children self-help skills and allowing them to become more independent. Her goal as a teacher is to give every child the best quality of care and to set a great example for them.

When Leticia is not working with young children, she loves spending time with her family. She has a 26 year old son who graduated from MIT and an 18 year old daughter currently attends Texas A&M. She also enjoys watching funny movies and listening to music.


photo of maryMary Dipasquale

San Jacinto Peacocks Teacher (Twos and Threes)

Favorite books: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak; Corduroy by Don Freeman

Mary has been working in early childhood development since 2005. While earning her undergraduate degree at Western Kentucky University, she worked at the campus child care center Head Start program. She graduated in 2008 with a BA in Advertising and a minor in Sociology. Watching her mother, who was her kindergarten teacher and now a 2nd grade teacher, has given her a passion for teaching. When she first moved to Austin in 2009, she was a full-time substitute at UTCDC. She is so glad to be back and join the team!

In her spare time, Mary enjoys outdoor activities, especially kickball and sand volleyball, where she participates in local leagues around Austin.


photo of paulaPaula Barton

San Jacinto Site Director

Favorite Children’s Books: Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Paula has been working in early childhood development since the birth of her son in 1992. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics from Baylor University. Paula joined San Jacinto the spring of 2011, after 12 years in the classroom and 7 years as a director of a center. Paula is a member of NAEYC (National Association of Education for the Young Child). She enjoys the developmental process of young children and keeping up with early childhood issues.

In her spare time, Paula enjoys her family and making personalized gift baskets for friends and loved ones during special occasions. She and her husband love movies, trying out new restaurants, and traveling to new regions of the country whenever possible.


photo of sarahSarah Ozuna

San Jacinto Panda Bears Teacher (Twos and Threes)

Favorite Children’s Books: I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Sarah joined the UT CDC team in 2014, but has been working with children for 5 years, She received her Bachelors Degree from UT in 2013 with a major in Child Development and Family Science with a concentration in Early Childhood Development. She is currently pursuing her certification in Play Therapy from The University of California at San Diego.

Sarah believes children learn the best socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively through play. She strives to give children the skills and confidence to be independent and loves seeing them accomplish new things!

In her spare time Sarah loves outdoor activities, such as, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and spending time at the beach. She also loves to travel and explore new places!


photo of shannaShanna Goins

San Jacinto Sea Turtles Teacher (Toddlers)

Favorite Book: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

I have worked in early childhood education since 2001. In college I interned at Disney World (sooooo fun) and worked as a DJ. I graduated from Texas State University in May of 2006 with a BA in Mass Communication and a minor in Family and Child Development. I knew from a young age that working with children was my calling. I have worked with children of all ages, but I really enjoy the toddler years the most. Children at this age are little sponges and I love helping them discover new things and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they accomplish something for the first time!


photo of susanSusan Klein

Curriculum Coordinator

Favorite Children’s Book: Susan loves children’s books and has a very extensive collection. She cannot pick just one favorite. But some of her favorite authors include Patricia Polacco, Don & Audrey Woods, and Shel Silverstein.

We are fortunate to have such an experienced person work with us as our Curriculum and Training Coordinator. Susan’s career has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and their families for more than 30 years. She holds a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education and has been a teacher, director, mentor, consultant and validator for early childhood programs all across the United States. In the coordinator role Susan spends time at each of our locations to assist in providing guidance and inspiration in all aspects of our programs curriculum and staff training.

When not enjoying children and their families at the center she is enjoying her own family which includes a son (Ezra), daughter (Mardi) and many other children she and her husband have “adopted” from around the world.