About the owners
Anna, Josh and Dionne are three energetic educators dedicated to the success of students (and the caregivers who love them) in the Grand Valley. Together, we have over 75 years of teaching experience.
We specialize in coaching and/or tutoring students with learning needs and differences. We have dedicated our professional learning to working with students who have ADHD and/or Executive Skills difficulties and those struggling with transitions.
We can also act as advocates for you and your student. We believe that the educators working with your child are doing their best with the resources they have, and we can help you collaborate with them for the good of your student. Most importantly, we work tirelessly to recruit and support the best educators to work with your kids. We are currently working on a plan to create scholarships for students in need.
Anna Goetz, M. Ed.
Coach 8th Grade -College
Anna Goetz has been an educator since 1987, teaching middle and high school and serving as an instructional leader, assistant principal and principal in Mesa County. Anna obtained her National Board Professional Teacher License for Adolescent Literacy in 2000 and retired from District 51 as the principal of R-5 High School. Anna then worked for several districts in Colorado, providing instructional coaching and training for teachers, curriculum leaders and principals. At the request of MCVSD 51, she returned twice to serve as interim principal of Wingate Elementary and Orchard Avenue Elementary schools. She has provided many courses for educators as an adjunct professor at CMU, and currently supervises principal interns. She has wide experience teaching grades 6-adult students of all abilities and working with K-12 students in the area of social-emotional and behavioral issues. She loves working with students who experience unique or new struggles in school and helping them discover their strengths and a renewed confidence in learning.
Josh Guddat, M.B.A.
Coach, Middle - H.S.
Josh Guddat enjoys supporting people of all ages as they work to meet their goals. He currently does this in many ways. Reading at home with his four children and helping with their homework is one of his joys! Teaching ELA and Social Studies to 7th-grade students at Bookcliff Middle school is another way he fulfills his passion. Over his 20 years of teaching, Josh has taught everything from high school Advanced Placement courses to intervention courses for low-skilled learners and everything in between. He has coached alternative learners finding their way at R-5 High School, mainstream learners trying to get into top colleges at Grand Junction High School, and students whose 2nd or 3rd language was English at an international school in Dongguan, China. Currently, Josh is working on becoming a National Board certified teacher in his never-ending quest to hone his craft as he works to support learners.
Dionne Guddat, B.A.
Dionne is currently a 2nd grade teacher at Pomona Elementary in District 51. She has spent the last 20 years in education in a variety of facets: seven years as 2nd and 4th grade classroom teacher in D51, stay-at-home mom, coach, tutor and parent of four successful D51 graduate/students, creative arts and music instructor, and two years teaching internationally to culturally diverse 4th grade students in Dongguan, China. Dionne has been trained through District 51 in Early Literacy Mediation (ELM) and Advantage Math Recovery (AVMR), and is currently in the process of National Board certification. She finds one of her greatest strengths and joys as a teacher to be the ability to build positive partnerships with parents and families to meet the educational goals of students at all levels. She is grateful for the opportunity to partner with learners and families through Essentials in Learning!
EIL coaches are recruited to work as independent contractors for our team, based upon their reputation, expertise, and experience working with students. All have years of experience as full-time, certified, professional educators.
Shari VanderVelde, M. Ed.
Coach, Intermediate - Middle
Shari VanderVelde founded Essentials in Learning in 2013 and has since moved into retirement as owner, but luckily for our students, she still does a little coaching! She began her teaching career in 1980 and has taught both special education and regular education students. She has worked as a Learning Facilitator and a Staff Developer and was formerly a consultant for Colorado Writing Project. She obtained her degrees from the University of Northern Colorado and became a National Board Certifed Middle Childhood Generalist in 1998. Her specialty is in the area of writing. She has studied ADHD and Executive Skills issues and attended various conferences regarding those topics. Shari has a passion for learning and loves working with ADHD students as well as students with Executive Skills deficits.
Ruth McKee M. Ed.
Coach, Middle - H.S.
Ruth McKee has a passion for teaching adolescents how to take ownership of their lives and learning in order to achieve college and career goals. She challenges students to develop strong reading, writing, speaking, and thinking skills, knowing that these are vital life skills. She spent 14 years teaching middle school English language arts in San Diego, California, before moving to the Grand Valley where she has taught adolescent literacy for the past seven years and leads as a co-advisor of the National Junior Honor Society. She recently completed her MS, Ed. in adolescent Literacy and Learning.
Julie Hickman, M. Ed.
Julie Hickman has been working full time in education since 1984. She earned her B.A. in Elementary Education at Adams State College, and then earned her Masters in Multicultural Education through a University of New Mexico Graduate Internship. She currently is a K-5 Math Interventionist at Appleton Elementary and is proud to call herself an Appleton Bookworm. Over the past 30 years, Julie has taught first, second, third and fourth grades in both Colorado and New Mexico. She has also been a reading interventionist and has taught summer literacy programs k-5, art, gifted and talented, and science during the summers. Julie loves seeing learners gain skills and build confidence as readers, writers, and mathematicians. Julie enjoys having the opportunity to work one-on-one with students, as well as building relationships with students and families. She loves being part of the Essentials in Learning team!
Amy Shepherd-Fowler, M. Ed.
Coach, 3 - H.S.
Amy Shepherd-Fowler has been a professional educator since 1998. She taught grades 1-5 for 15 years before moving onto the D51 Curriculum and Instructional Support Team as an instructional math coach and professional learning specialist. She is currently the assistant principal for both Mesa View and Lincoln OM Elementary Schools. Amy has and continues to provide professional learning and consulting for educators and is an instructor of record for Colorado Mesa University. Amy has significant experience with students who have ADHD, anxiety, and behavioral issues. She believes in all students’ ability to learn and grow and engage in learning.
Tracy Seremak, M. Ed.
Coach, Middle - H.S.
Tracy’s experience includes teaching and supporting students in mathematics, study skills, and college preparation in the Chicagoland area (15 years) and District 51 (7 years). Her experiences as a mathematics (middle and high school) teacher, A.V.I.D. coordinator and teacher, administrator, and curriculum specialist have provided her with a wide variety of tools and insights into how mathematics can be learned and understood in a variety of ways. Tracy currently teaches mathematics at Palisade High School. She has a passion for helping everyone feel that they can learn and understand mathematics.
Kelly McGuire, M. Ed.
Coach, Middle - College
Maureen Kelly has a MA in Education and ten years experience, eight in the classroom. She has worked in middle, high school, and alternative settings for ages 10 to 21 as well been an instructional coach and content specialist. She has presented at state and national conferences including WIDA, and has served on state committees including the CLDE guidebook committee.
Kelly is a Western Colorado native and a strong advocate of education for everyone. She has personal experience living with executive function issues and employing coping skills.
Edith Bigum, M. Ed
Edith Bigum is certified to teach Elementary Education and Special Education, and she has a Master’s Degree in Reading. She is a Reading Recovery specialist and a certified Literacy Interventionist. Edith was honored with Outstanding Educator of the Month 2007. She retired in May 2020 after 30 years teaching kindergarten and first grade at Broadway Elementary in School District #51. She is excited about the opportunity to work one-on-one with students and meet their individual needs as learners. Edith believes it is critical for children who are struggling with literacy skills to have highly qualified teachers to support them in their early years.
Mon-Fri 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Martha Lynch, B.A.
In education since 2001, I've had the privilege of seeing a lot of light bulbs go on! I started out as an ESL teacher's aid but it wasn't long until I decided I wanted a classroom of my own. I received my B.A from Colorado Christian University and have put it to use since then. I've worked with grades 1-12, but home is 5th grade for now. I've been teaching 5th grade at Appleton Elementary since 2008. Getting kids ready for that big transition to middle school is a challenge I look forward to year after year. When I'm not teaching, I'm teaching! I also teach childbirth classes at St. Mary's hospital. My free time is usually spent hiking with family and friends all around beautiful Colorado.
Kalie Cook, M. Ed.
Coach, Middle - College
Kalie is in her 6th year of teaching and just completed her Masters in Teaching and Learning this past May! She taught at an alternative Big Picture Learning high school in Reno, NV for three years after leaving her home state of Michigan, and is in her third year of teaching at the alternative high school here in Grand Junction. Kalie enjoys finding new ways to explain concepts to learners so that they may understand it in a more "real-world/big picture" way. Her goal is to show all learners that they CAN learn math and to make it more enjoyable and understandable along the way.
Katie Dieckmann, B.S.
Coach, Middle - H.S.
Katie grew up on the beaches of south Florida where she loved scuba diving and eating seafood. She participated in her high school marching band and winterguard all 4 years. She went to the University of Central Florida where she earned a bachelor's in 6-12th grade Mathematics Education. She moved to Grand Junction in 2016 and started teaching at Central High School. She was there for 3 years and now teaches at R5 High School, where she teaches math through gardening and aquaponics. Katie loves teaching her learners how to study and how to determine if they are understanding the content on their own. She is also passionate about making sure that any gaps in a learner's prior knowledge are filled and that is one of the reasons why she believes she can help anyone learn math. Katie is currently working on her national board teacher certification and is always looking for new ways to be successful in teaching.
Brandon Pollard, B. S.
Coach, Middle - College
Brandon Pollard has a strong passion for mathematics education and has been teaching at Bookcliff Middle School since 2013. Brandon’s path in education, however, started prior to that when he taught at the John McConnell Math and Science Center for four years working with students from kindergarten all the way through 8th grade. Brandon also has experience teaching high school, having spent a year at Grand Junction High School working with freshmen through seniors. His goal in education is to get students engaged and excited about mathematics no matter their previous experiences with the subject. Brandon wants to instill in students that everyone can do math. Brandon works to teach to the “whole child” and develop students’ skills so that they can become life-long learners and competent mathematicians.
Debra Roberts-Garske, M. Ed.
Coach, Middle - College
Debra is a National Board Certified Teacher with a Masters Degree in Education with a focus on literacy and language. Debra started her teaching career in San Clemente, California and has been with District 51 for the last twenty five years. She has worked with middle through college level students, with most of her experience in the English Language Arts classroom working with struggling readers in reading lab classes and high achieving populations in Pre-AP ELA. Debra is currently an instructional coach, working with teachers to establish goals to better their classroom practice. She loves to read, hike and travel in the Northwest with her family.
Roxy McManus, B. S.
Coach, Middle - High School
Roxy McManus has spent her career in education working with at-risk teens at Palisade High School, R-5 High School, and Grand River Academy. She has the belief that every student has gifts and talents for success, with the right tools and strategies. She believes significant learning comes with significant relationships. In her free time,she enjoys hiking, mountain biking, photography, and she can’t get enough of her 7 grandchildren