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FEI Team

FEI's success is a result of the commitment of many dedicated people.

FEI Leadership Team

Betsy NikolchevBetsy Nikolchev
Executive Director
Betsy Nikolchev is the founder of the Family Engagement Institute (FEI) at Foothill College. Betsy has over 25 years of experience in the field of education, leadership and innovative program design. She brings a depth of experience to FEI from her work in early childhood as a teacher, director, parent educator, program coordinator, college faculty, administrator, and executive director. She has been involved in the development of numerous quality education programs and initiatives throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo County to build school, college and workforce readiness skills for immigrant families of low income, specifically Latino families - programs such as Even Start Family Literacy, FIRST 5, Race To The Top, Stretch To Kindergarten, Foothill College’s noncredit college bridge programs, for-credit Child Development Accelerated Academies and the Science Learning Initiative STEM summer learning opportunities. Betsy's experience spans program design and management, curriculum development, train-the-trainer sustainability models that grow leadership and capacity for families, staff and educators. She received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and a California Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Pacific Oaks College where she will complete her M.A. in Human Development with a focus on family engagement.


Carmen M. PonceCarmen M. Ponce
Director, Stretch to Kindergarten and Early Learning Programs
As the Director of Stretch to Kindergarten and Early Learning Programs, Carmen brings years of experience in early Childhood and Parent Education to FEI, that includes over 16 years as Preschool Teacher, Associate Director, and Program Co-Director at the Mountain View Whisman School District, a Head Start Partner Program. Carmen's work has focused on Latino family support, leadership and advocacy.Originally from Peru, Carmen worked for ten years as a kindergarten teacher. After moving to California, she was a Lead Teacher at the Children Center of Stanford Community and a Parent Educator in the Even Start Program, designing and implementing a family literacy curriculum for Dual Language Learner children and their families, whose home language was Spanish. Carmen's bilingual and bicultural background helps connect underserved families in the community with culturally responsive opportunities, resources and services that support the success of children and families. This cultural competency carries over in her role as mentor and coach for educators as a college administrator at Foothill College. Carmen holds a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and a Program Director Permit. She is dedicated to the work she does and is committed to closing the school, college and workforce readiness gap for children and families in the community.


Amparo Leyman PinoAmparo Leyman Pino
Interim Assistant Director
As an educational consultant for such esteemed organizations as the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, the Children’s Museum of Jordan in Amman, and Principal and Co-Founder of Redwood School in Mexico City, Amparo’s focus has been on innovation, cultural relevancy and the development of quality interactive learning communities. Amparo has been working at FEI as an Adjunct Foothill College Faculty since 2012 as both a facilitator and co-developer of curriculum.  Her new role as Interim Assistant Director encompasses supporting the Executive Director to execute the overall strategic plan aligned with program philosophy, mission, goals, and policies to ensure long-term sustainability, operational success and expansion of FEI.  Specific responsibilities will be to develop, implement and expand programs, partnership work, and a development plan that encompasses communication and marketing, grant proposal research, and the development of an advisory committee of leaders from a variety of sectors. Amparo holds a B.S. in Psychology from the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Mexico City, Mexico and an M.S. in Education from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Monterrey, N.L., Mexico and is fluent in both English and Spanish.  Amparo was selected to become a Noyce Leadership Institute scholar in 2014.

FEI Adjunct Faculty

Judy Crates
Judy has been involved in education for over 45 years. She majored in Spanish Literature, with teaching and administrative experience from preschool through university. As a principal and district level administrator, Judy developed her own parent workshops, and encouraged principals and teachers to reach out to families.  As Principal of Mariano Castro Elementary in Mountain View, Judy had a five-year partnership with FEI.  Upon retirement, she was eager to become an FEI Instructor.  She also serves on two local nonprofit boards and is a consultant to regional nonprofits serving under resourced families.

Nancy Ducos
Nancy has over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and brings a unique expertise of community development and literacy education to FEI beginning in 2010. Nancy was the Senior Program Manager of the First Teachers program at Bring Me a Book. She created and developed Programa Comunitario de Alfabetizacion in Marin County, an award winning community-based literacy program. She received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Marin County Human Rights Commission and the Koshland Civic Unity Award. Nancy holds a MA in Mass Communication from the University of Puerto Rico and a MA from Santa Clara University with an emphasis on Multidisciplinary Education.

Amanda Erichsen
Amanda began working at FEI's Stretch to Kindergarten (STK) in 2014 as a Kindergarten teacher. In the Spring of 2015 she assumed the role of STK Coach for STK teachers and faculty. As coach, Amanda has the opportunity to support STK teachers in promoting school readiness and family engagement. She currently works for Sunnyvale School District as a third grade teacher and as a parent educator for FEI. Teaching the FEI "Strong Start" series has allowed her to stay connected with Sunnyvale's young students and their families.

Martha Escalera
Martha brings over 13 years of experience in higher education and has been with FEI since 2012. She completed her BA in Sociology and Spanish, and a MA in Organization Development from the University of San Francisco. Martha works at Stanford University's School of Engineering as the Student Affairs Manager supporting engineering diversity programs and initiatives. She grew up in a low-income family home and was one of the first in her family to earn a Masters degree. Her involvement in education and the community inspires her to continue supporting educational equity programs.

Robin Galas
In 2011, Robin began working for FEI as an Adjunct Faculty member and later as the Assistant Director. She continues in her role as faculty and also works for the Community Music Center in San Francisco. As a passionate advocate for educational and health equity, Robin has spent the past nine years supporting "at-promise" youth, low-income families, and organizations that serve those youth and families. In 2006, she piloted and developed a garden-based education program for the San Mateo Court and Community Schools. Concurrently, she served on numerous community-based collaboratives including the San Mateo County Food System Alliance and the American Heart Association 2020 Task Force, Greater Bay Area.

Valentín Garcia
Valentín has been with FEI since 2011 and focused his career as an academic counselor working with students and families to support their career and academic goals and aspirations. He has extensive experience developing and implementing related curriculum for parents and students through FEI, San Jose State University (SJSU), University of California Santa Cruz, and PIQE. He is currently a Counselor at San Jose City College and an On-Air Personality for 93.3 La Raza. He holds BA in Sociology with a concentration on Family and an MA in Counseling from SJSU.

Silvia Gitlin
Silvia joined FEI in 2012 with over 20 years of experience in the field of education teaching ESL and Spanish in the Palo Alto School District and Preschool - 5th grade in private schools. During her eight years as a preschool teacher, Silvia mentored new teachers and currently works at First 5 Santa Clara County. She holds a California Child Development Site Supervisor Permit, a BA in Architecture from Massachusetts College of Art, BArch from Southern California Institute of Architecture and an MA in Architecture from UCLA and received the 2014 "Helen Diller Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education". Born in Mexico City, Silvia is committed to supporting underserved families in our community.

Brenda Jarillo Rabling
Brenda joined FEI in 2015 and brings eight years of experience of working on education policy research. She received a PhD in Education from the Stanford University School of Education. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University Department of Political Science. Her research focuses on the identification of effective interventions strategies to improve learning and school engagement among disadvantaged children from early years through high school. Brenda has extensive experience conducting program evaluation studies of educational interventions serving at-risk youth.

Wendy Lundeen
Wendy began working at FEI's Stretch to Kindergarten (STK) in 2011 as a Kindergarten teacher. In the Spring of 2013 she began working as an STK instructional coach for teachers. She currently works for Milpitas Unified School District as a Transitional Kindergarten teacher. Wendy holds a CA Multiple Subject Credential, a Reading Specialist Credential, and a California Site Supervisor Child Development Permit. She currently has a Master's in Reading and will begin a Doctor of Education program through the University of Southern California in January 2016.

Omar Nevarez
Omar has a love for teaching and helping out his community. He joined FEI in 2012 an also has worked with the Santa Clara County Juvenile Probation department for eight years helping minors understand the consequences of their actions on victims. In addition to this work he is also a member and volunteers for East Side Heroes based out of San Jose, CA that takes a novel approach to influencing at-risk youth to turn their lives around through mentors. Currently, Omar is at Kaiser Permanente as a Sr. Associate Account Manager. His educational background includes a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Business Management degrees from San Jose State University.

Monica Rios De La Flor
Monica has over 20 years of experience working with children and families and began teaching at FEI in 2013. Originally from Peru, Monica taught Kindergarten, worked as a Family Partner and Family Resource Center Coordinator at First 5, facilitated parenting workshops at Rebekah's Children Center, and currently is a Family Engagement Specialist at Santa Clara County's Head Start and EDUCARE programs. Monica holds a BA in Early Childhood Education and a Program Supervisor Permit and will complete her M.A. in Human Development with an emphasis on Leadership in Education and Human Services from Pacific Oaks College. Passionate in her work, she supports families as advocates for children.

Betty Sustaita-Duran
Betty joined FEI in 2014. Her career began as an instructor in a literacy-based program focused on improving academic achievement with an emphasis on juvenile gang and violence prevention. Betty expanded her knowledge of student success while working as a family liaison for San Jose Unified School District at middle and high school. She has a strong passion for helping students from all socio-economic backgrounds by linking families to the resources and services within their communities. Betty is currently a First 5 community worker educating parents about the importance of the first five years of a child's life. She holds a BA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Criminal Justice from the National Hispanic University.

Rachael Tipton
Rachael began working at FEI's Stretch to Kindergarten (STK) as a preschool teacher in 2010. She became a coach for STK to support teachers and families in promoting school readiness, family literacy, and early math. She has multiple years of experience teaching and coordinating preschool classrooms across the Bay Area and holds a California Child Development Site Supervisor Permit. Her focus has been to foster a love of learning by immersing her students in curriculum that is meaningful and integrates all subject areas. Rachael graduated from California State University Fullerton with a B.S. in Child Development and has completed the Multiple Subject Credential program at San Francisco State University.

FEI Leadership Support Team

Anthony FimbrezAnthony Fimbrez is pursuing his BA in Graphic Design and is a full-time student at Foothill College.  He joined FEI in the spring of 2014 as a Program Assistant and has been instrumental in the redesign of FEI outreach materials, educational toolkits, and other program related materials to support FEI’s families, faculty, partners and the college’s noncredit courses.


Michelle MarceloMichelle Marcelo has been involved working in underserved communities and youth for over six years.  She joined FEI in April 2015 while completing her BA in Psychology at San Francisco State University.  During the summer, Michelle supported the Child Development Academy as an advisor and continues to support FEI programs during the academic year. She is planning to attend graduate school at San Jose State University in the Fall 2016 to pursue her Masters degree in Educational Counseling.


Carlos Pacheco-MirandaCarlos Pacheco-Miranda has been part of the FEI community since he volunteered as a high school intern in FEI’s Stretch to Kindergarten in 2011, a summer school readiness program designed to cultivate strong partnerships among families, schools, and the community. He attended Humboldt State and is currently a student at Foothill College working on his BA in Cell/Molecular Biology on his way to becoming a Pediatrician.

Parent Leadership Team

FEI is creating a Parent Leadership Team. They will advise the FEI on key program development matters, lead the parent leadership team and assist in program implementation.

Consultant Team

Carola Matera
Kathryn Lindholm-Leary

Advisory Board
Nancy Ducos, Community Outreach Coordinator, City of Mountain View
Oscar Garcia, President & CEO, Mountain View Chamber of Commerce
Liz Simons, President, Heising-Simons Foundation
Denise Swett, Vice President of Student Services, Foothill College
Jeanne Thomas, Chair, Foothill College Child Development Department
Laura Woodworth, Associate Director, Foothill-De Anza Foundation