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Administration

  • Stephanie Schmidt
    Bio
    Stephanie Schmidt
    Executive Director
    Stephanie Schmidt
    Executive Director

    Stephanie Schmidt earned an Associate of Science at Snow College and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education (Social Studies Composite) at Utah State University. She served on the Board of Directors for the National Student Association of Community Colleges. In this role, she was an advocate for higher education and lobbied for support from U.S. senators and representatives in Washington, D.C. She taught history and geography at Box Elder Junior High and at a treatment center called Lifeline for Teens. She worked with students struggling with difficulties including behavioral disorders, drug involvement, and eating disorders. Education is her passion and she believes there are few things more rewarding than empowering young people to thrive!

    She served on Early Light Academy’s Board of Directors from 2013-2020. She is currently serving on the Utah Association for Public Charter Schools’ Board of Directors.

    She thrills as spring comes around and she is able to spend time getting her hands in soil at a family business, Schmidt’s Farm & Greenhouse. Her family works in the fall on the farm selling produce at farmer’s markets. Steph always has a pile of books on her nightstand and loves recommendations for great reads. Traveling and being in the great outdoors (hiking, biking, camping, gardening, etc.) with her husband and kids is her favorite way to spend a day.

  • Darci Cordero
    Bio
    Darci Cordero
    Junior High Principal
    Darci Cordero
    Junior High Principal

    Darci Cordero grew up in the small town of Camarillo in southern California and had what she called the perfect childhood. She spent her days exploring tide pools, playing in the waves at the beach, riding horses and swimming in her pool. Her family moved to Sandy, Utah when she was 14 years old where her adventures changed to exploring the mountains, camping and skiing. Although she attended high school in Sandy and she now lives in the Herriman area; she will always be a "California" girl at heart and returns back to the beach as often as she can.

    Darci graduated from Brigham Young University Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in Biology Composite Teaching with an emphasis in Zoology and a History Teaching minor. Go Cougars! She is a member of USTA, NSTA, and is a National Geographic Certified Educator. Darci's desire to be a science teacher started in sixth grade when she had a teacher who inspired her to look at the world through a scientist's eyes and she loves using nature and the scientific world to discover new things. As she now takes on junior high leadership, she is excited to lead the junior high with its amazing students and teachers to a great future. We are Phoenix Strong!

    Darci is the proud mother of five amazing children; three girls and two boys ranging in ages from twenty three down to thirteen, 1 of which is a student at ELA. She and her husband, who is also a teacher, live in the Herriman area and enjoy spending their time  camping, traveling anywhere there is a beach, and laughing together. 

  • Amy Bird
    Bio
    Amy Bird
    Elementary Principal
    Amy Bird
    Elementary Principal

    Mrs. Bird graduated from University of Utah in 2005 and began her teaching career when her family moved to Austin, TX. After 4 years of teaching kindergarten in Texas, and missing the seasons and mountains of Utah, she moved back home to the Salt Lake Valley in 2014 with her husband and 6 children. Mrs. Bird joined the ELA family in 2015 as a kindergarten teacher. She taught kindergarten for three years prior to joining the administration team. As the Elementary Principal, Mrs. Bird's favorite part of her job is the students! She loves working with teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents at ELA to ensure that every student learns and grows. 

    When Mrs. Bird's is not at ELA, she is usually off the grid, exploring the amazing outdoors with her backpack and family. 

     

  • Rob Abney
    Bio
    Rob Abney
    Elementary Assistant Principal
    Rob Abney
    Elementary Assistant Principal

    Mr. Abney graduated with a Bachelors degree in Human Development and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Brigham Young University. Before his jobs in education, he worked in training and development and human resources with various government agencies. He was also a 6th grade teacher at Early Light Academy for several years before becoming an administrator.

    He looks forward to this upcoming year and working with your students.

School Leaders/Support

  • Anna Lynn
    Bio
    Anna Lynn
    Assessment and Literacy Director
    Anna Lynn
    Assessment and Literacy Director

    Anna Lynn grew up in Portland, Oregon where she loved her year round green surroundings. She went to Brigham Young University and received her degree in English and Theater education. She is a 3rd generation English teacher and truly enjoys being in the classroom. Anna has taught both high school and junior high over the years and finds the most joy in working with the 7th and 8th grade students.

    When Anna isn’t playing or working with her 3 children and husband, she likes to be in the classroom teaching teenagers. Not only does she teach English and is a Reading Specialist, but she also teaches her students how to learn. She develops in her students the tools they need to excel today, and become great members of their community in the future as adults.

    While Mrs. Lynn is always patient and well prepared, she also has high expectations of her students so that they will be well prepared for whatever comes their way.

  • Dana Thompson
    Bio
    Dana Thompson
    Instructional Coach and Curriculum Director
    Dana Thompson
    Instructional Coach and Curriculum Director

    Dana Thompson, is originally from the small city of Ojai, in Southern California. She has taught for 17 years in grades six through twelve in several western states, in both public and private education. Along with her undergraduate work and licensing in social science and English, she has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, and an endorsement to teach English Language Learners. 

    Dana is honored to have the opportunity to serve as Early Light Academy’s Instructional Coach and Curriculum Director.  She has a solid background in educational research and the science of learning. She is passionate about education as the foundation for success for all students regardless of background. She looks forward to working with the students and teachers at Early Light Academy and supporting them to achieve their personal and academic goals. 

  • Anne Trout
    Bio
    Anne Trout
    Special Education Director
    Anne Trout
    Special Education Director

    Anne was born and raised in Arizona. She attended Utah State University where she received her bachelor's in Communicative Disorders. After leaving USU, she taught for two years at an elementary school in Mississippi before returning to Utah. This is her fourth year at Early Light Academy. Anne loves working with the students at ELA.

    When Anne is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She loves photography, reading, playing flute and piano, and spending time outdoors. She also loves to play board games and is always up for learning a new one! 

    Anne is excited for another year at ELA and can't wait to see her students learn, grow, and become great leaders!

  • Keith Phinney
    Bio
    Keith Phinney
    Assessment Assistant/Math Coordinator
    Keith Phinney
    Assessment Assistant/Math Coordinator

    Keith Phinney is a California native who grew up in Foster City (a suburb of San Francisco).  After a happy-go-lucky childhood, Keith attended Humboldt State University to be a forestry major.  When he realized forestry was more "tree farmer" than forest ranger, he started taking a wide range of classes in natural sciences but was always drawn to his love of history and his ability in math.  Realizing he needed to graduate eventually, and looking at his fairly random transcript, he chose math over history as it would let him graduate the soonest.  He has a BA in Math Education (but still reads lots of history!). 

    He immediately put his degree "on the shelf" and pursued a career in campus ministry that spanned 24 years and added another degree to his resume (an MA in Pastoral Studies).  He and his wife served university students on campuses throughout the west and in Asia.  Speaking of his wife, she is a high school guidance counselor and together, they have three children who are all "out of the nest" (two nurses and one Trader Joe's assistant manager). 

    His love for math reignited when his children started asking for help with their math homework.  He transitioned to teaching in 2014 and loves hearing students say "that makes sense."  In the fall of 2022, Keith shifted to an administrative role at ELA that keeps him math focused and engaged with students (as the Assessments Assistant and K-9 Math Coordinator).  

    When not at school, Keith tries to be outside - walking (with his labradoodle Kelly), hiking, camping, stargazing, and gardening.

    Random tidbits: Keith wears tie-dye every day he can, is a Hufflepuff, still likes building Lego sets, wants to swim with dolphins, starts his day with a cup of coffee and the NASA photo of the day, and hopes that one of the students he impacts will someday go to Mars.

  • Elizabeth Ricotta
    Bio
    Elizabeth Ricotta
    Behavioral Assistant
    Elizabeth Ricotta
    Behavioral Assistant

    Liz Ricotta is honored to have the opportunity to work with the wonderful students here at ELA. She is looking forward to the new school year, and hopes to be a good support system for our students and staff. 

    For several years Liz has had the opportunity to volunteer with the Utah Foster Care System and their amazing kids. During that time she helped to run a summer camp and a year round mentoring program.

    Liz was born and raised here in Utah where she lives with her husband and two children.
    She loves to travel, experience new places and enjoys reading with a good chai tea. Movies and and wonderful friends are also a bright part of her life. You can happily find her at the baseball field cheering on her son or beaming with pride as her daughter dances across the stage. 

Counselors

  • Janeil Jones
    Bio
    Janeil Jones
    Elementary Counselor
    Janeil Jones
    Elementary Counselor

    Janeil Jones has her master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s in psychology. She has worked in the field of Child Life, working with hospitalized children.  She took a hiatus to stay at home as her kids grew and has typed medical transcription from home during that time.  She is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada.  Janeil moved to South Jordan years ago with her family. She is married to a native Utahan and they have three children.  Janeil was an ELA parent before she was an employee.  She loved the school so much she got a job here! In her free time she loves to read, sing, and play video games with her kids.  She also really loves all things Harry Potter and Marvel!  Janeil loves being a part of the ELA community and absolutely loves working with all the students!

  • Chelsey Sorensen
    Bio
    Chelsey Sorensen
    Junior High Counselor
    Chelsey Sorensen
    Junior High Counselor

    Chelsey Sorensen was born and raised in Mapleton, Utah where she was the middle child of 3. She enjoyed working hard to get good grades and was her high school's CTE Sterling Scholar and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She went on to attend Utah Valley University where she obtained her Bachelor's degree in Psychology (Magna Cum Laude), took a little break from school, and then continued to get her Master's in School Counseling (Summa Cum Laude). She worked at the Utah State Hospital for many years while going to school and enjoyed working with the patients there. 

    She greatly enjoys traveling anywhere and exploring new and old places. She has a labradoodle named Harper who is very energetic, hyper, and sweet. Harper loves playing fetch the most, and Chelsey has spent countless hours throwing balls for Harper to chase. Harper also loves to shop and go on adventures with Chelsey, they both love TJ Maxx, going for walks, and playing in water. While Chelsey loves the Utah mountains, she loves the beach just a little bit more.

    Chelsey has a passion to inspire and empower others, especially her students. She has looked forward to being a school counselor for many years and is so excited to make a difference and encourage others to believe in themselves and be great leaders.

Office Team

  • Michelle Drachman
    Bio
    Michelle Drachman
    Business Manager
    Michelle Drachman
    Business Manager

    Michelle Drachman was born and raised in the Salt Lake Valley. She graduated from Snow College with an Associates of Science Degree. She has always enjoyed working with children. Before coming to ELA, Michelle has had experience as a classroom aide, serving on the PTA Board, volunteering in her children’s classrooms, and substitute teaching.

    Michelle and her husband have three awesome children; two boys, and one girl. The enjoy spending time watching their daughter dance, and compete, and watching their sons play baseball. She also enjoys, traveling, scrapbooking, going to movies, and reading.

    She loves working with the staff and faculty at ELA. Education has such a powerful influence in children’s lives, and she is excited to be a part of that life experience.

  • Amy Kawa
    Bio
    Amy Kawa
    Administrative Assistant / Office Manager
    Amy Kawa
    Administrative Assistant / Office Manager

    Amy grew up in Logan, Utah, and is the youngest of 9 children. She lived in Canada for a few years, but moved back to Utah and has lived here ever since. Amy is married, and has three amazing children!  Amy and her family love spending time watching sporting events, just goofing around together, and spending lots of time outside. She absolutely loves listening to all types of music, watching her kids play soccer, and can most often be found with a Diet Dr Pepper in hand.

    Amy is excited to continue to work alongside the staff at ELA and looks forward to getting to know all that she comes in contact with.

  • Sherrie Tucker
    Bio
    Sherrie Tucker
    Office Secretary
    Sherrie Tucker
    Office Secretary

    Sherrie Tucker is a native of basketball country being raised in North Carolina.  She studied Elementary Ed at UVU and then a trade school to become Dental Assistant.  She has been teaching sewing since she was 17 and loves to work with children. 

    She & her husband met on the UVU Ballroom Dance team and have 3 girls and 1 (spoiled) boy.  All her children have attended ELA and still rave about their wonderful experience. A few of her favorite things are dancing, sewing, Dr Pepper'ing, boating, ATVing and traveling.

    Sherrie has been a part of ELA and PEAK since the doors open in 2009, serving as the PEAK President 4 times.  For the last 3 years, she has been a substitute teacher in most grades especially the Jr High.  She has a great love for ELA and it's staff and is excited to continue working with the school in a different capacity.

  • Roberta McFarlane
    Bio
    Roberta McFarlane
    Registrar/Office Secretary
    Roberta McFarlane
    Registrar/Office Secretary

    Roberta McFarlane was born in Baltimore, MD and raised in Poughkeepsie (pu-kip-see), New York. She came to Utah in 1999 to seek a new adventure. She met her sweet husband shortly after arriving and two short months later they were married! Roberta has 1 daughter and 1 son. She loves to travel to warm destinations. Her favorite weekly, out to eat, meal is Cafe Rio and Chick-fil-A. 

    By substitute teaching, Roberta has been part of the awesome family at ELA since 2010. Over the years she has gotten to know and love many of the staff and parents at ELA. She loves the students so much and enjoys working with them each day!

  • Karen Sewell
    Bio
    Karen Sewell
    Office Secretary
    Karen Sewell
    Office Secretary

    Karen Sewell (pronounced like "jewel") grew up in Murray, UT and now lives in Daybreak with her husband, three daughters, and their poodle, Murphy. She graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in child and adolescent psychology and has worked as a family photographer for more than 12 years. Other than Utah, Karen has lived in New Jersey (South Orange), Indiana (Indianapolis), and Massachusetts (Boston). Karen loves watching the Utes, RSL, the Jazz, and the USWNT. She loves reading on her kindle, watching movies, going to summer concerts, and traveling to San Diego. She loves snacking on popcorn, raspberry dark chocolate, and Diet Coke. 

    Karen has been a part of the ELA community since 2016, and all of her girls have attended the school since kindergarten. She spends time volunteering in her daughter’s classrooms, doing book fair shifts, and helping out on PEAK’s board. 

    Karen loves working with the amazing staff at ELA that she has gotten to know so well as a school parent, and looks forward to seeing all of the students and their families as they come through the front office each day!