jodie darnell

Jodie Darnell

General Ed Mental Health


Jodie Darnell was raised in Denver and graduated from the University of Denver with a B.A. in Sociology and Spanish. She also earned a Master's Degree in Social Work at Columbia University in New York City.  After spending more than a decade living on the East Coast, Jodie is thrilled to have returned home to Colorado although she does miss the ocean. As a new member of the Wheeling community, Jodie looks forward to building relationships with students, their families, and her new co-workers! 

Catrina Hernandez

READ Interventionist

Catrina Hernandez was born and raised in Denver, Colorado.  She grew up in North Denver with her 2 brothers and 1 sister. Catrina attended Loyola University, New Orleans for her undergraduate studies and the University of Phoenix for her graduate programs. After college, she returned to Denver and has been teaching for 22 years.  She enjoys singing, craft projects, reading, cooking, and hiking.

ashley merino

Ashley Merino

Spanish Teacher / Librarian

Ashley Merino is from El Paso, Texas but has lived in Colorado since she was in second grade. She graduated from the University of Northern Colorado: Center for Urban Education with her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis on Culturally Linguistic Diversity. She is currently getting her Master's in Reading through Grand Canyon University. Ashley enjoys teaching at Wheeling Elementary school because of the IB Program and all the inquiries that come with it. She loves teaching on a global scale and thinks this is the perfect school to do it at. The community at Wheeling is humble and full of kindness! She has a supportive husband who she adores, her "full of energy" husky Kuma, and both of her fish tanks! She enjoys being outdoors with or reading a book.


Gabriela Orozco

CLDE Teacher Leader

Gabriela Orozco is from Chihuahua, Mexico, and attended La Normal Superior Juana de Asbaje. She received her degree in Spanish Language Arts; after she graduated, she moved to Aurora, Colorado. She attended Regis University to obtain her Master's in Bilingual Elementary Education. Gabriela is currently studying for an Ed.S. Educational Leadership and Special Education Administration Educational Specialist at the University of Northern Colorado. Gabriela will work as CLDE Teacher Leader she will assume a wide range of roles to support the school and student success. She loves working at Wheeling because it is an environment where students and teachers work together to create a positive learning environment. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her five babies: Julieta(15), Gema(14), Luis Alfredo (10), Moncerrat (6) and Fernanda (5 months) and her husband Arturo (He is a great cook ).


Laura Smallwood

CLDE Teacher Leader

Laura Smallwood was born in Romania and moved to Germany when she was four years old. There, I grew up in different cultures, speaking three languages. Later on, she learned four additional languages.  She attended the University of Braunschweig in Germany and holds three masters (English, Philosophy, and Education).  Throughout her career as an educator, she has been a district academic leader, an administrator, an instructional coach, a dean of students, and a teacher. Her experience with teaching different subjects ranges from Pre-Kindergarten through University level.

As the CLDE Teacher Lead, Laura believes in nurturing the whole child. With that, she is also committed to the linguistic success of all students, and especially that of every single English language learner. Linguistic proficiency gives students access content and creates a path to growth and academic achievement.

Laura also believes learning never stops and that it happens everywhere! Since she moved to Denver in 2003, she has immersed herself in different communities to learn more about them. Moreover, she created a tradition to celebrate diversity with friends from different cultural backgrounds every year. In addition to celebrating people, she has the strong belief that we need to take care of our planet.

In her free time, she enjoys eclectic music, reading, spending time with my family, cooking for friends, and being active. Her favorite book of all times is Beloved by Tony Morrison. Traveling and trying new foods are always on the list.


Derrick Parker

Teacher Partner


Derrick Parker was born in Giessen, Germany. He is part of a military family so he moved often. Though, he spent most of his time in Colorado Springs. He received his Master's in Teaching from Adams State University through the Boettcher Teacher Residency program. Derrick has been teaching at Wheeling for 4 years. His wife is also a teacher in Aurora Public Schools and he his the proud father of two puppies named Louis and Sebastian. On his free time he likes to lift weights, eat food, lift weights then eat more food.