About Us

Ignacio Early Learning Program is a, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit child development center. The school provides child care and early education services year-round for families with children three to five years old. Ignacio Early Learning Program serves 48 children per day and is made up three classrooms:

Preschool-16 Children
Preschool-16 Children
Preschool-16 Children

Ignacio Early Learning Program has adopted an emergent curricular model, called Creative Curriculum. While we have identified developmental goals for every child in our care, teachers are trained to be in tune with the child perspective. Children support the direction of the study that is selected based on their interest level.  Lesson plans and daily activities will reflect their interest. It is the responsibility of the teacher to: 1.) thoughtfully observe the children in their care and determine what themes are peaking their curiosity; 2.) weave social/emotional, language, fine/gross motor, and cognitive learning into the thematic planning process.

Each of the three Ignacio Early Learning Program classrooms utilizes the Creative Curriculum as well as Teaching Strategies GOLD — powerful teaching tools to facilitate individual child assessment, organized documentation and curricular planning.

Ignacio Early Learning Program is proud to be a program that serves children with a variety of needs. We contract directly with the Colorado Department of Human Services to serve low- to moderate-income families who qualify for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). Ignacio Early Learning Program also serves children under the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP).





Brittney Benavidez

Photo of Brittney Benavidez
Toddler Teacher Ignacio Early Learning Program Work Phone: 970-563-0681

Ms. Brittney teaches two and three year old toddlers in the Aspen classroom. She has been with IELP since we opened, but has been working with children since 2014. She loves kids and all the exploring, learning, and fun they get to have!

Before starting her career in Early Childhood, Ms. Brittney attended school at Pueblo Community College where she achieved her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education. She currently hold a Directors certificate in Early Childhood as well. She looks forward to giving you the best learning environment she possibly can with her experience and education.

Ms. Brittney was born and raised locally and is a mother of a handsome, very active 6-year-old boy who keeps her on her toes every minute of every day! She love being a mommy!

Her hobbies include getting outside and spending as much time as she can with her son and family. She enjoys many get-together celebrations with her huge family and going on walks, bike rides, swimming, and fishing. They love traveling and exploring all that they can! Being with her family brings me so much joy!

Ms. Brittney can’t wait to meet all of your smiling faces and spend the next year learning and growing with you and your families!

Ceriss Blackwood

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Assistant Teacher IELP Home Phone: 970-563-0681

Ceriss Blackwood is our assistant preschool teacher in our Pine and Juniper classrooms. She brings 12 years of experience in education to our program, including from the Southern Ute Montessori Head Start. Ms. Blackwood spent several years as a certified elementary teacher in New Mexico and has worked for Native American Education at both Denver Public Schools and Durango School District. After graduating from Ignacio High School, she went on to earn her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Additionally she is an Alumni of; Teach for America, Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority, Inc. and the Foster Care to Success Program.


On her free time, she enjoys spending time with her children and participating in cultural activities. An, avid reader, she averages one book a month. Currently Ms. Blackwood is working toward her special education endorsement to provide specialized support for students in the classroom.

Melanie Brunson

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Division Director IELP Work Phone: 970-563-0681

Lainey Espinosa

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Preschool Teacher IELP Home Phone: 970-563-0681

Born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado, Ms. Lainey is 21 years old and enjoying life as much as possible. She currently doesn’t have any children of her own but she does have a wonderful boyfriend. She enjoys hunting, camping, hiking, spending time with family, concerts, and of course spending her days with the children in her class.

Ms. Lainey has been teaching since she was 18 years old, shortly after graduating high school. She obtained her CDA credential in the fall of 2017 and has been taking college courses to get my associates degree in Early Childhood Education. Ms. Lainey also takes classes on the Colorado Shines website to help herself grow as a teacher.

She have enjoyed every aspect of her job and she’s learned so much over the years.

Jamie Garicia

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Toddler Teacher IELP Work Phone: 970-563-0681

Ms. Jamie Garcia brings 7 years of teaching experience to our program and currently holds her CDA credentials. She is furthering her education through online training on the Teaching Strategies and the Colorado Shines websites. Ms. Jamie was born and raised in Colorado. and is a mother of a wonderful son. When she is not at the preschool, she enjoys camping, fishing, and spending time with her family.


Brenda La Barthe

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Preschool Teacher IELP

Once a toddler teacher, Ms. Brenda now teaches the preschool age and lives in Arboles Colorado. She has been married for 26 years to Brett and has two great boys, a 21 year old son and another son who will be a senior and graduate in 2021. Ms. Brenda enjoys outdoor activities, walking, and spending time at the lake. A big part of Ms. Brenda’s life is going to her son’s school sports but mostly she enjoys hanging out at home and spending time with her family. After moving to Arboles in 1989 from Colorado Springs and working in various careers, Ms. Brenda felt like she needed a change in her career and began work at the Head Start in Ignacio were she stayed for 13 years. She loves being around young children and has been with Ignacio Early Learning Program since we opened. Brenda brings experience and a sense of humor to our program!