Staff

Baji Rankin, Executive Director

Baji Rankin, Ed.D., has worked in early childhood education for 40 years as a teacher of young children and of adults, a researcher, an organizer, a scholar, an administrator, and an advocate. She is also the facilitator for a Shared Services project in NM, and works to increase access to quality early childhood education in NM and the nation. She was one of the first citizens of the U.S. to study and investigate the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, starting in 1982. She spent a year in Reggio Emilia in 1989-90, studying the schools, experiencing directly how teachers and children work together to develop curriculum. These experiences have inspired her to find ways of bringing excellence in early childhood education to ALL children. Baji Rankin has served as Executive Director of NMAEYC since 2004. [email protected]

Jesse Leinfelder, T.E.A.C.H. and INCENTIVE$ Project Director

Jesse Leinfelder, Ed.D. recently joined the staff of NMAEYC. She brings experiences with all sectors of the early childhood field including teaching young children, college teaching and course development, advocacy, research-analysis, community organizing, and family support.  She has been engaged in addressing the Quality-Affordability-Compensation challenge of child care across her entire career. A highlight of her work was establishment of a Career Center in South Florida that provides T.E.A.C.H scholarships, WAGE$ incentives, and career advising, as an essential support to the quality rating improvement system.  She is particularly happy to hear: “I never thought I would go to college, and here I am!”

Olivia Natale, Deputy Executive Director

Olivia Natale has been working with NMAEYC since 2013 through an AmeriCorps program called Public Allies New Mexico.  Since joining the program she has served as a Counselor for the T.E.A.C.H. program and as the Volunteer Coordinator for the New Mexico Wonder of Learning Collaborative, both projects of NMAEYC. Prior to moving to New Mexico Olivia worked as a caretaker and volunteer teacher of young children in New Jersey. Her subsequent work with a nonprofit organization called One Million Bones as the New Jersey State Coordintaor eventually led her to Washington D.C. to serve as Volunteer Coordinator for the culmination of the project. It was this experience that encouraged her to apply for the Public Allies program in New Mexico. [email protected]

Ramona Gonzalez, T.E.A.C.H. and INCENTIVE$ Counselor

Ramona commenced her adventure in early childhood as a volunteer in the state of Colorado for a Head Start agency. Upon completion of high school she moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where she began her career of nine years working in the early childhood field. She started as a Teacher Associate, took courses in Early Education which resulted in advancement to Lead Teacher and then Center Director. Ramona became interested in the study of Criminal Justice earning a degree and dedicating her time in the field for two years. In November 2014, Ramona happily joined NMAEYC staff as an INCENTIVE$ / T.E.A.C.H counselor to promote and encourage Early Childhood Education. [email protected]

Ann Sullivan, T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship Counselor

Ann Sullivan has been involved in the field of early education in New Mexico since the early 1990’s. During her time in New Mexico she has worked with a variety of private and public programs to enhance the quality of care and education for young children, through both direct effort and by promoting the professional development of the early care and education work force. Ann has worked in Albuquerque with CDI (Community Development Institute) and at UNM Center for Development and Disability, in Gallup at UNM-Gallup on faculty in the early education program and as director of the Campus Child Care Center, and in Socorro as director of the New Mexico Tech Children’s Center. She came full circle back to Albuquerque when she joined the staff of NMAEYC as a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship counselor in January, 2014. [email protected]

Alma Hernández, T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship Counselor

Alma Hernández served with NMAEYC as a Public Ally AmeriCorps members from 2015 to 2016. Prior to serving with NMAEYC, she completed a BS in Invididual Studies and minored in Childhood Psychology/Education at NMSU. She has experience as an assistant teacher in Hatch, NM for All Aboard Child Care Center, was a Tutor Specialist with a K-5 after school program sponsored by CYFD, and she has mentored students at NMSU through the College Assisted Migrant Program (CAMP). [email protected]

Ken Moore, T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship Counselor

Ken Moore, MA, has been immersed in early childhood education since 1977 as a preschool center lead teacher, a child care home provider, and a cofounder of a recycled materials center for children, families, and teachers -- all in Michigan -- and as a college instructor, researcher, and program administrator in New Mexico.  Since he began engaging with young children through play, he can’t help but break out in song when the feeling comes. [email protected]

Rachel Brasell, INCENTIVE$ Deputy Director

Rachel was a toddler teacher for almost eight years at La Puerta de los Niños. She also serves on the board of La Puerta. Rachel’s interests include writing, children’s literature, travel, bicycling, and tacky design from the 60’s and 70’s. She lives with her family, her soulmate cat, Frances, and her two chickens in Nob Hill. [email protected]
 

Kindra Hill, Communications Director and Office Manager

Kindra Hill graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy and a minor in Astronomy. She was introduced to NMAEYC through the Public Allies AmeriCorps program in 2014 and is currently taking on her role as the Communications Director/Office Manager. Her work in non-profits and elsewhere has frequently centered around youth, education, and community engagement. Additionally, she takes immense pleasure in learning more about early childhood education, social media strategies, computer languages, and how these tools and more can empower people and New Mexico's young children. [email protected]

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