Our professional faculty members are highly qualified early childhood educators with extensive training and experience.


  • Lead Teachers have a degree in Early Childhood Education or a related field and have a combination of training and experience.

  • Teacher assistants have a Child Development Associate Degree or similar credential or have experience in an early childhood setting.

  • Collectively our teachers have over 50 years of early childhood education experience.

Kristen Blue (Director)

This year will mark Kristen’s fifth year as the EEC Director and tenth year at EEC. She also taught the Pre-K class for 8 years prior before transitioning into a Director only role. She began her teaching career in 1995, after earning her degree in Special Education from ASU. She taught in a K-4th grade learning resource classroom in the Scottsdale School District and then in an integrated special needs preschool in the Paradise Valley School District.


Kristen specializes in the Creative Curriculum, and has a deep understanding of the importance of a play-based learning environment.  In her classroom, she followed an emergent curriculum, which emphasized a child-centered, rich learning environment that included loose parts and process art, where she helped students negotiate conflict, make friends, and acted as a guide in their learning and inquiry about the world. Now she loves working alongside the teachers as a mentor and facilitator. 


Kristen has two biological children, Ashlyn (19 and a sophomore at UofA) and Ryan (15 and a freshman in high school), both of whom attended a play-based cooperative preschool, and two step-children Jackson (19 and a sophomore at UofA) and Evelyn (17 and a senior in high school).  When Kristen is not teaching, she loves spending time with her children, her husband, taking walks, taking care of her pets (chickens, dogs, a guinea pig, a tortoise and a parakeet), reading non-fiction, singing and photography.

Doug van der Veen (2's Lead Teacher)

Doug was a stay-at-home dad finishing his dissertation on the nature of money when he discovered he liked co-oping at preschool more than teaching Economics.  When his daughter, Cleo, left preschool for kindergarten, Doug stayed on at the EECP as a teacher.  For the last 20+ years, Doug has continued to teach at the EECP.


When not at school, Doug is the co-owner of an international firm that specializes in creating interactive learning spaces in over 500 public libraries. He also was one of the two families who founded the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, serving on the founding board, designing and building many of the first exhibits, as well as driving the first Museum Without Walls bus to festivals and fairs.


With all of his background in service to children, his favorite place is in the 2’s classroom, and he has made teaching an avocation and one of the favorite things he gets to do during the week.   Doug is married, has three children and two grandchildren.  He is fond of quoting Mr. Rogers, who is his hero.

Gina Hupton (2's Assistant Teacher)

We are excited to welcome Gina back to the staff at EEC after a year long sabbatical!  This will be Gina's 2nd year as a teacher at the preschool.  She began teaching in the Three's class and will now be in our Two's class with Teacher Doug.  Before joining our teaching team, her daughter Sylvia was a preschooler at EEC and is now starting kindergarten.  Gina's younger daughter Lila will be starting at the preschool this year as well.  


Gina grew up in Iowa with a family of musicians, teachers and farmers, which fostered a lifelong dedication to singing, dancing and the natural world. As the oldest of seven cousins, she became enamored with young children and was the natural play facilitator. This led to a fascination with the way little people learn and a desire to guide their growth, resulting in a long career as a nanny and instructor.


As an ecologist, Gina studied the mating behavior of red winged blackbirds and migration of monarch butterflies. She has provided science education for all ages at camps, nature centers, high schools, and universities. Most recently, at the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability, she provided curriculum support and professional development to students and teachers throughout the Phoenix Valley focused on local urban ecology. She also collaborated with her husband, Chad Johnson, in his public outreach efforts studying black widow spider behavior.

Gina is eager to understand how factors in a child’s social and physical environment affect their individual cognitive development. She loves to play with music and movement and encourage kids to explore.  She sings with the Phoenix Symphony Chorus and enjoys all kinds of outdoor recreation. 

Bob Davis (3's Lead Teacher, Pre-K Assistant Teacher)

Bob is the lead 3’s teacher and assistant Pre-K teacher. He also teaches Lunch Bunch and Aftercare. He earned his BA in education from Southeastern Louisiana University and then went on to teach high school English in Nashville, TN. When his daughter was born he transitioned into teaching part-time as a substitute teacher and being a stay-at-home dad. As a substitute, Bob spent a good deal of time in elementary school classrooms and gained experience with many different age groups. While studying and teaching English, Bob developed a deep intuition for language development and is excited to be using these skills at the preschool level. In addition, with a background and passion in story telling and music, Bob creates a unique dynamic in the classroom environment.


Bob has an 8-year-old daughter who is in third grade. In his free time, he enjoys playing in a rock-n-roll band, camping with his family, and tinkering in his garage.

According to the students at the UU Kids Kamp,

“Teacher Bob tells really good stories, plays wacky guitar, and is a crazy dancer.”

Laurel Butterfiled (3's Assistant Teacher)

Laurel is the Assistant 3's teacher, and mom to a current EEC preschooler. A lifelong creative thinker, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Arizona State University and worked as a professional artist for many years. Shortly after enrolling her son Henry at our school, Laurel discovered a love for all things play dough, finger paint and make believe...and a deep fascination and respect for the child-centered, play-based curriculum emphasized at EEC. She joined our teaching team in the spring of 2020, and is looking forward to guiding students in their discovery of the world, social development, motor skills, and just plain fun.


When she's not teaching, Laurel enjoys creating in the kitchen, working on art projects with Henry, spending time with her two dogs, hiking with her family and biking in all kinds of weather.

Katherine McCowan (Prek Lead Teacher)

Katherine joined the EEC teaching team 3 years ago and has extensive experience in education and early childhood.  

Updated bio coming soon....

Runa Bianchi (PreK Assistant Teacher)

Runa joins our teaching team this year as an assistant teacher in the prek class.  Previously, she was a parent of 2 EEC preschoolers and then became a lunch bunch and aftercare teacher as well as a substitute.  We're excited to welcome her to the prek class this year!

Runa's background is in speech pathology.

More coming soon.....

Please reload

Early Education Cooperative Preschool

4027 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253     |     Direct line: 623-201-7180 |or 602-840-8400 x 233      |     eecdirector@gmail.com