Early Childhood Council of Larimer County is lucky to have 19 volunteer board members who provide oversight and inspiration for our work. In this third month of ECCLC board spotlights, we’re featuring seven of our amazing board members. Read our November Board spotlights here and our December board spotlights here

Averil Strand 

  • Averil joined the board 8 years ago and has been a consistent champion and donor of the Council.
  • She has a master’s degree in nursing with an emphasis in maternal child health. She recognizes the lifetime importance of early childhood stimulation and care.  
  • Averil was the Director of Health Services at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment when she originally joined ECCLC’s board. She felt the coordination between ECCLC and the Health Department was important to improve the health of Larimer County children.
  • As she reflects back on her time on the board, she noted, “I appreciate the professionalism of both the staff and the Board,” she said. 
  • She retired from Larimer County Department of Health and Environment in 2020. 
  • When asked what’s the biggest opportunity for ECCLC to tackle in the next year, Averil noted “helping to increase the availability of affordable child care.” 
  • Averil is the mother of two daughters, one of whom passed away in 2020. She has 3 brothers, 2 of whom live with her. In her freetime, she enjoys crocheting and cross stitch. 

Thad Paul

  • Thad has worked for Larimer County in various Human Services capacities for more than 24 years, with a main focus on juvenile justice and child welfare. He is currently the Division Manager – Child, Youth and Family at Larimer County.
  • He joined the ECCLC board in 2021 as there was an opening for a human services professional. “Based on the intersection of ECCLC’s goals and mission and my work in child welfare, it appeared as a great opportunity to both have a better understanding of the needs in our community and find opportunities to partner to improve family well being.” 
  • When asked what’s the biggest opportunity for ECCLC to tackle in the next year, Thad said, “The needs for care and early childhood education are paramount, but I think helping to shift the narrative of what ECCLC does to being one about improving the well-being of children and families may help to garner increased community support for the efforts of ECCLC.”
  • Thad and his wife have a 17-year-old son who will graduate from high school in 2023. They live near Thad’s wife’s parents and siblings so they enjoy time with their larger extended family often. 
  • Camping and fishing are Thad’s favorite pastimes. He also enjoys participating in bowling leagues when possible.  

Karen Rattenborg 

  • Until her retirement in December 2021, Karen was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) at Colorado State University and the Executive Director of the CSU Early Childhood Center (ECC), a laboratory school with a three-fold mission of teaching, research, and service. She was responsible for all aspects of the ECC’s charge to train CSU students for careers in the field of early childhood; promote opportunities for research related to children, families, and early childhood education; and provide a developmentally appropriate Reggio Emilia-inspired education for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years.
  • Karen has three degrees from Colorado State University. She earned her B.S. and M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) and her Ph.D. in Education and Human Resource Studies. She began teaching at CSU in 1992 and taught more than 60 sections of HDFS and Education courses over the past 30 years including lifespan development, child development, internship, practicum, professional skill development, and grant writing. Before becoming the Executive Director of the ECC in 2012, Karen was an Assistant Professor in CSU’s Teacher Licensure Program. Prior to that, she served as the Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising and Experiential Learning in the HDFS Department.
  • Karen joined the ECCLC board in 2017 because she feels passionately about the importance of the first five years of life and this passion motivates her work to promote optimal environments and experiences for young children in the context of preparing dedicated, competent teachers who have a deep understanding of child development and are well equipped to meet the educational and socio-emotional needs of children. In her role as a board member, she is able to expand her ability to benefit children, families, and the early childhood workforce.
  • When asked what’s the biggest opportunity for ECCLC to tackle in the next year, Karen shared that she is delighted to see how much momentum there currently is in the field of early childhood. “The pandemic has highlighted the foundational importance of early care and education not only for children and families, but also for the economic viability and well-being of our community. Now is the time to move the needle!” 
  • In addition to her work advocating for children, Karen is committed to international experiences. She was awarded a scholarship for a study tour in Reggio Emilia, Italy in 2016,  served as a Global Studies Instructional Coordinator on the Fall 2018 voyage of Semester at Sea, and received a Fulbright Specialist Award in 2019 to explore diverse perspectives of education at Kagawa University in Japan. 
  • Karen and her husband Greg are the parents of two adult daughters. In their spare time, they all enjoy the benefits of living in Colorado including skiing/snowboarding, hiking, SUP, and playing golf. Karen is also a cat-mom to two kittens, Ivy and Poppy. 

Candace Martin-O’Connor 

  • Candace has been in education for 26 years with most of that time being in Colorado. She is currently the Assistant Director of Early Learning at Poudre School District. 
  • She joined the ECCLC board in 2019 as she wanted to be a part of the early childhood community beyond Poudre School District. 
  • When asked what’s the biggest opportunity for ECCLC to tackle in the next year, Candace highlighted, “planning for Universal Preschool and affordable, high quality care for families.” 
  • She also shared, “I am so impressed with the ECCLC Board and staff. Their knowledge, experience and dedication to children is fantastic.” 
  • Candace has one daughter who is an English/Spanish major at UNM in Albuquerque. Her husband is a professor at CSU and a gigging musician. She loves to travel, knit, garden, run, hike, and eat.

Abby Callen 

  • Abby is currently the Program Manager of an Outpatient Services team at SummitStone Health Partners, which serves children, families and adults. She was instrumental in helping start SummitStone’s first fully telehealth team in 2020 as well as a new Virtual First Step Clinic which provides 1-3 sessions to clients who are starting their therapy journey. 
  • One of Abby’s passion areas is maternal mental health. She oversees SummitStone’s Specialized Women’s Services Program, which supports women who are seeking support for substance use disorders and are pregnant and/or parenting. “Our clients are amazing, resilient, and hard-working people who are striving to get healthy for themselves and their children,” she said. 
  • Abby joined the ECCLC board in June 2021 as she is passionate about supporting people who are parenting young children. “What better way than to support their access to quality early childhood learning and care,” she said. “I love ECCLC’s mission and what they are doing for our community.” 
  • When asked what’s the biggest opportunity for ECCLC to tackle in the next year,  she shared, “advocacy and support for the early childhood workforce as well as equity in access to quality early childhood learning.” 
  • Abby has two young boys and is still in the throes of early childhood herself. “It is busy, wild, and ever-changing,” she said. 
  • She and her family love to hike, swim, and play outside. She also has two basset hounds who are like her children and need just as much attention.

Caroline Bunn 

  • Professionally, Caroline serves as a Community Liaison for SummitStone Health Partners in Larimer County. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor. Prior to moving into the world of outreach, she was a clinician providing therapy to children and families recovering from trauma. She held counseling roles within schools and health care settings. 
  • Caroline joined ECCLC’s board in 2017 as she was looking to deepen the perspective about behavioral health in early childhood and actually recommended that her boss first consider joining the board. “I’m really lucky my boss didn’t think she had the time to join the ECCLC board,” Caroline said. “I wanted to be more engaged in the community outside of my 9-5 job and am so glad I jumped on board!” 
  • When asked what’s the biggest opportunity for ECCLC to tackle in the next year, she shared, “We have so much to do! One is public awareness. I don’t think people understand how difficult care is to find, how expensive it is for families, or how underpaid our educators are. Additionally, I don’t think people realize the impact of quality early childhood education. Early childhood is a time of tremendous brain development and our educators are working with our kids on skills they’ll have for the rest of their lives–social skills, emotional regulation, problem solving, and literacy to name a few. These teachers are not babysitters. Studies show time and time again that investment in early childhood education has an exponential return, and I can’t understand why we’re behind on making this happen. Kids deserve better and our teachers deserve to make a living wage.” 
  • Caroline is a mama to a vibrant 18 month old, spouse to a hilarious and avid outdoorsman, and keeper of two very big dogs. “In other words, my house is rarely clean or quiet, I don’t get a lot of sleep and I wouldn’t have it any other way (except maybe the sleep part),” she said. 

Lisa Auer 

  • Lisa is currently the FLTI Site Coordinator & DEI Support at the Larimer County CSU Extension and is the Council Liaison on ECCLC’s board. With a background in human development and family studies, Lisa took a role as an assistant director of a preschool to be with her children when they were younger. She then supported families through The Matthews House before joining the CSU Extension where she focuses on community development work and civic leadership training. 
  • Lisa joined ECCLC’s board in 2016. “The early years are some of the most important of our lives,” she said. “Joining this board provides me the opportunity to serve the youngest members of our community.” 
  • When asked what’s the biggest opportunity for ECCLC to tackle in the next year, Lisa remarked, “To find ways to support early childhood teachers especially when tackling livable wages.” 
  • Lisa loves being a part of a board that has a true commitment to serving the youngest members of our community and their families. 
  • Lisa is a mom of two beautiful girls, one who studies at CU Boulder and the other at Boltz Middle School. She met her husband while traveling in Costa Rica. She decided to stay and took a job at an international school, got married, and had her first child there. Lisa and her husband both love to snowboard, and Lisa is a CSU alum so they decided to move back to Colorado in 2004 and have been in Fort Collins ever since.  
  • Lisa loves the outdoors, cooking, reading, snowboarding, and wakeboarding.