Meet Our Staff

Our Lady of the Assumption School Staff 2017

  • Mr. Benavidez is a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico. He graduated with a BA in Philosophy (cum laude) with a minor in Religious Studies and is currently pursuing his Masters in Philosophy at Holy Apostles Seminary and College (online). Throughout his collegiate career, he worked and participated in many different areas, from working as a teaching assistant at Texas State University Child Development Center to directing numerous choirs for mass. This is his first year teaching, and he is very excited for the opportunity to teach in the Catholic schools.

    Mr. Benavidez is interested in education because he is interested in the salvation of souls. After spending his childhood playing various sports, he fell in love with music in middle school and pursued that love throughout high school and college. In college, he fell in love with Christ and His Church and committed himself to their mission of helping people to become saints. Although his academic studies are in philosophy, he likes to use his love for music to lead others to the Mass, the Church, and ultimately, Christ.

    In his free time, Mr. Benavidez loves to play sports, read philosophy, write music, and bring people together, generally. He has two cars, a ’95 Miata and a ’97 Civic hatchback, whom he “loves” dearly. And he enjoys watching Anime, lifting weights, and playing Super Smash Bros. Melee.

    Quote he loves:

    “The greatest among you must be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

  • Krista Benavidez – Ms. Krista is working on her Education Degree at Central New Mexico Community College. Her journey teaching started in 2012 during her senior year of high school when she volunteered in first grade classes at Mark Twain Elementary School. Last year she aided Mrs. Griesbacher’s second grade class, and she is looking forward to new adventures this year with her kindergarten class. When school is not in session, she takes classes and does private tutoring at elementary levels.

    Becoming a teacher has always been Krista’s dream, as she loves seeing children light up when they learn something new. The creativity and imagination children have inspire her.

    Ms. Krista loves spending time with her family and friends. She enjoys a good book, sipping tea, shopping and music.

    Quote she loves:

    “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

  • D. Annette Cason – Mrs. Cason began her career in education teaching Pre-Kindergarten. She worked in Early Childhood Education for over 5 years while obtaining her B.A. in Elementary Education from Prescott College in 2000. Mrs. Cason then taught in California in a K-8 Homeschool Charter School, and had the pleasure of homeschooling her own daughters for 5 years. A military change of station took Mrs. Cason and her family to Maui, Hawaii. She achieved a Master’s of Education Degree from Chaminade University in 2007. Her husband retired from Active Duty Air Force after 26 years and the family made their final move to Albuquerque, where they settled and made it their “home”. In 2009 Mrs. Cason made Our Lady of Assumption her teaching home. Mrs. Cason loves working with 5th graders. She admires their openness, their sense of humor, and their willingness to try new things. She loves to build relationships with students and encourage them to overcome their challenges, whether they are academic, personal, or social. Her favorite thing in teaching is when a student calls out “I GET IT!” – It is always such a powerful moment for her. She also loves to see her students make connections, relating information previously learned to new studies. Her goal is to get students excited about learning, so that they will become life-long learners.

    Mrs. Cason loves photography, reading and travelling. She has been married to her wonderful husband for 31 years and has 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren. Mrs. Cason recently took up cycling, and loves to hike. Her favorite place in the world is Maui, where she can hike, enjoy the beach, take amazing pictures and feel the awe in God’s creation. Mrs. Cason believes that education is not a destination, but a journey. She hopes to help all of her students have a successful and fun journey.

    Quote she loves:

    “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” — William Butler Yeats

  • Clarissa Contreras has taught art at OLA for the last 15 years. Previously, she taught 3 years in the OLA middle school world studies and science. Throughout her 18 years at OLA, she has also taught religion for 6th and 7th grades. Additional duties have included: lunchroom monitoring, science and world studies fairs, art curriculum development for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and OLA art and talent shows. Before coming to OLA, Clarissa taught 5th grade for 6 years in both APS and Los Lunas Public Schools. This school year is her 25th year in education.

    Currently, Clarissa is married (18 years) and has a daughter in 5th grade attending OLA along with a son, who is an OLA graduate (class of 2017). She is a lifelong parishioner of OLA. Mrs. Contreras earned her BS in elementary education from University of New Mexico (Social studies endorsement), as well as a Masters degree in Art education.

  • Della is a lifelong resident of Albuquerque, NM and a parishioner of OLA for 45+ years.  She is a graduate of Valley High school with Associates degrees in Medical Assistant and Insurance from TVI (CNM).  Della has owned a home day care for almost 20 years.  She also has retail managerial experience with Regis corporation, Firestone Tires, as well as nurse assistant for a private medical doctor practice.  

    Della is the mother of four, grandmother of ten and great-grandmother of two.

  • Ms. Jennifer Davis received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of New Mexico and an M.Ed. from Wayland University. She began her educational career student teaching 2nd grade at Hawthorne Elementary School. In 2010, she began working at OL Assumption Catholic school teaching Jr. Kindergarten for her first 3 years. She has been a Kindergarten teacher at OLA since August 2012. Her favorite part about teaching is being able to teach skills that build a student’s academic foundation. She loves to make teaching fun and creative and enjoys hearing her students tell her what they have learned in her class.

    Jennifer has three children; Ethan-9th, Tessa-7th, and Elijah-5th. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, drawing, going to movies, and shopping.

  • Jane Davalos Mrs. Davalos received her B.A. in Bilingual Education from Cal State Long Beach and an M.A. in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico. She worked as an elementary dual language teacher for Albuquerque Public Schools and retired after 30 years of service. She holds both a Bilingual Endorsement and an Early Childhood Endorsement as well. This will be her third year teaching Jr. K at O.L.A. and she has enjoyed it tremendously!

    Her son, Joel, and her daughter, Erica, are O.L.A. alumni, as well as her husband, Don, from years back when things were very different at O.L.A. She considers it her highest calling to teach 4 year-olds to love Jesus as He loves us. She finds it most challenging and yet very rewarding when she takes a step back and gives her students real think time, processing time, and a chance to solve problems without her. Her favorite part about teaching Jr. K is watching her students make tremendous leaps and bounds in their growth and development throughout the school year.

    Mrs. Davalos loves traveling, trying new recipes, and spending time with her family. She also enjoys hiking, ping pong, Lobo basketball and volleyball, exploring art museums and road trips that take her off the beaten path.

  • Michelle Everett received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Phoenix in 2007 and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix in 1997. Previous education included a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Merchandising from Parks Business College and Certified Electro-Mechanical Draftsman from Albuquerque’s Technical Vocational Institute. Michelle is now pursuing obtaining a teaching certificate/license.

    Michelle Everett is currently working in Our Lady of the Assumption’s Parish Office performing various office administration activities including records management and maintenance. She also works at the Catholic Foundation as an independent contractor supporting monthly banking and investment reconciliations.

    During the school year, Michelle works the Aftercare Program at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School. This includes tutoring the children during the homework designated time. She is also an active substitute teacher at the school and available throughout the school year. These have turned out to be her favorite jobs as the children are amazing and so very special. No job has been as rewarding.

    Michelle relocated back to Albuquerque in July of 2016 after retiring from a successful career at Honeywell Inc., Satellite Systems Operations in Glendale Arizona. She worked at Honeywell for 31+ years, starting out in Albuquerque, as a Draftsman and retiring in Arizona after working the last 15 years as a Senior Program Quality Engineer, supporting National Programs.

    Michelle enjoys spending time with her family, which is what brought her back to Albuquerque. She also enjoys spending time with her dog, Sam, a 130 pound Rottweiler. They take regular morning and evening walks, visit with friends and love swimming at the lake whenever they make a trip back to Phoenix. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys golfing, reading and hiking.

  • Ms. Elaine Geissler is an Albuquerque native. She attended Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic School, graduated from Sandia High School, and received her BA in Anthropology from UNM and her Post-Baccalaureate in Elementary Education from UNM. She has endorsements for middle school math. Ms. Geissler’s teaching career began at Ernie Pyle Middle School where she taught math for 2 and a half years. She then moved over to Madison Middle School and taught math for 23 years. She retired from APS and will be starting her 2nd year teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade math here at OLA. Ms. Geissler has always dreamed of teaching at a Catholic school and is very grateful for the opportunity and for her students.

    Ms. Geissler enjoys hearing of her former students’ accomplishments. Many have gone on to some of the top universities in the country. Several have become teachers and others have pursued careers involving mathematics. Teaching math is her passion and she loves seeing her students learn and excel.

    Ms. Geissler resides in Albuquerque with her two daughters, Natalia and Marina. Natalia is a junior at St Edward’s University in Austin, TX, and Marina is a senior at Sandia High School. Additionally, her 87 year old father, Henry, lives in Albuquerque as do three brothers and their wives. She also has two sisters who live in San Antonio, TX. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, gardening, hiking, and watching the Steelers and the Penguins play!


  • Mrs. Glaser received her B.S. in Special Education and Elementary Education from the University of Tulsa and graduate studies in physical science and earth science from the University of New Mexico and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Engineering. She taught in the Catholic schools for fifteen years and fifteen years in the Rio Rancho Public School system. During that time, she received the New Mexico Presidential Award for Science, Department of Defense Award for Teaching Science, Toyota Tapestry Science Award, Earth Shuttle Science Award, and over $55,000 in science grants. For three years she was an instructor for the International Science Academy instructing delegates from several countries on teaching science inquiry to the world’s youth. She co-published a book for students conducting research along with a video that was translated into several languages to be used worldwide. She is currently starting her second year with OLA teaching World Studies and Science in the middle school.

    Her dearest memories are the “Wow! I did it!” moments from the students. Watching the students work through a challenging concept and formulating the conclusion based upon gathered data (in any subject) are moments that she cherishes. Helping a student succeed and building his/her self-esteem are skills that Mrs. Glaser strives for in each class. She loves greeting students as she is shopping or having them come back to visit. It is a joy hearing about their accomplishments as they go through life.

    Mrs. Glaser is a local artist and is currently exhibiting in Old Town, Lovelace Westside Hospital, O’Hare’s Pub and Grill, and Barnes and Noble (during the summer). She loves to spend time with her family and friends.

    Quote she loves:

    Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. —Albert Einstein


  • Mrs. Laura Goodyear received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Illinois State University. She’s worked as a 5th Grade teacher in Galveston, Texas for ten years where she lead the 5th Grade team of teachers. While staying home with her kids, Sean and Adam, she enjoyed being in mom’s groups and teaching Vacation Bible School at St. Joseph on the Rio Grande in Albuquerque. She came to Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School in 2010 and has taught 3rd Grade for seven years.

    Her favorite memories are when students have discovered their talents and used them to do well in class and shared them with classmates. She also enjoys the excitement of students learning new skills, trying new teaching strategies, and watching her students grow up as they continue through the upper grades.

    Mrs. Goodyear loves to read, go to movies, shop, eat out, play guitar, and especially spend time with family!

  • Mrs. Griesbacher-Lyle received her Bachelor of Arts in Education at the College of Santa Fe in Albuquerque and attended Highlands University to earn ‘half’ a masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. She taught second grade at Tohajiilee Community School in 2003/2004 and has been teaching at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School since 2004. She taught second grade until 2007 when she taught one year as the fourth grade teacher. Then she took time off to be with her daughter in 2008; however, during that time she also substitute taught at O.L.A. for three years. Upon her return she was able to reobtain her position as the second grade teacher.

    Teaching second graders is her passion. She believes in hands on learning and her teaching paradigm is based on students’ many learning styles and abilities. She also enjoys encouraging the development for the love of reading within each of her students. She incorporates project based learning in Science and World Studies and loves to create scientific investigations to enhance the learning of scientific concepts.

    Mrs. Griesbacher-Lyle loves spending time with her husband and daughter Maggie, which will be starting fifth grade 2017/2018 school year. She also enjoys motorcycling, geology (rocks and minerals), entomology, outdoor activities, four wheeling, and exploring our beautiful state of New Mexico.

  • Jesus Hernandez keeps our school immaculate and in great working order! He has been with OLA for 5 years and is retired from APS after 25 years of service primarily working at Taft Middle School. Jesus is married and has two sons and a daughter and is a grandfather of 3. Jesus enjoys taking his grandchildren to the park to play and watching movies. He enjoys the interaction with the OLA students and the students will tell you the same.

  • Mrs. Faith Johnston received her B.S. in Construction Engineering from the University of New Mexico and is currently working towards her M.S. in Library and Information Science at Drexel University. She worked at Parsons Brinckerhoff designing roads, bike paths, construction phasing and signing, and estimating the cost of constructing these types of projects. She stayed home with her daughter Clara from 2004 until 2011, while working as the accounts manager at Wayjohn Surveying, Inc. She began working at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School in 2011 as an Educational Assistant (E.A.). She has worked as an E.A. in JK through 2nd grades for the past 5 years. She started working as the librarian/media center specialist in 2016.

    She loves helping students find books to read (“I need a classic to read.” “What about Peter Pan?” “That was a book?!”), their excitement as they tell her about the book and whether they liked it or not (“That book was great! It was so scary!!!!”), and sharing the books they love with their classmates (“You have to read this! It is so scary!!!!!!!”). The funniest statement she’s heard happened during a book fair, “The only book my mom reads is Facebook!”

    Mrs. Johnston loves to read, quilt, travel, and spend time with her family. She also loves to bike, hike, garden, and relax with family and friends.

    Quotes she loves:

    “When it is a question of God’s almighty spirit, never say, I can’t.” – Andrew Carnegie “No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” – J.K. Rowling

  • Cynthia Larrañaga was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is married to her husband of 28 years and has two children (who are now young adults), a 27 year old daughter and a 24 year old son. Both of her children attended O.L.A. from Kindergarten to 8th grade. Her daughter works for Molina health care and her son is attending NMSU and pursuing a degree in Business. She has 2 granddaughters whom she watches 2 days a week and loves spending time with. She has worked for O.L.A. for about 8 years, first as an E.A., a substitute, grounds and maintenance supervisor for Fr. Domme, and now the school secretary. She loves being a part of O.L.A. She was baptized at O.L.A. and also married there. She thinks of O.L.A. as her family.

  • Debbie Marino has volunteered since August 2014 at OLA, in Early Childhood, as well as in the Library and Uniform Store. She received her Educational Assistance License in 2016 and became a staff/volunteer. She also volunteers with other school activities. She feels blessed to be in an environment, where prayer and learning about God, is a part of a child’s education. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family and friends, shopping, gardening and going to the movies with her husband. She has 2 grandchildren who attend OLA.

  • Mrs. Patricia Pecos received her B.A. in Elementary and Special Education in May, 1979 at Marygrove College, Detroit Michigan. She worked in Jemez Pueblo at the San Diego Mission School for two years as a kindergarten teacher and at the Jemez Riverside Elementary as a special education teacher for one year. In 1982, Mrs. Pecos began her many years serving the family of O.L. Assumption. She taught first grade in the “St. Francis” room in the portable building for one year, and opened up the first kindergarten class in 1983 in the junior building. After teaching kindergarten for two years, she took a break to stay home with her two little girls.

    The following year, she was asked to return in the fourth grade position, in 1986. She taught this class, (the current art room), for seven years. At that time both the priest, Fr. Luis and Mr. Kaiser agreed it was time to make a Resource Room available for struggling students. She was able to teach 30 students daily from grades K-8 for small group instruction. As funding depleted for a full time resource teacher, the kindergarten position opened up, so Mrs. Pecos happily returned to one of her favorite grades to teach. She continued this with ambition, until sixteen years later; she returned to her other favorite class to teach, which is called, ‘teacher’s heaven’, the fourth grade class.

    During her time as the Resource Teacher and Kindergarten Teacher, Mrs. Pecos assisted the principal, Mr. Kaiser with administrative duties for twenty years. This included Standardized Testing documentation, individualized testing of students, and Federal Title Funding Coordinator.

    Besides her love for teaching in a Catholic School, Mrs. Pecos lives in Jemez Pueblo with her husband and son. On weekends she teaches Confirmation classes to high school students at San Diego Mission. She has embraced cooking hot chili meals for her family, enjoys reading, music, and Pinterest!

  • Mrs. Saiz received her B.S. in Computer Science and her M.D. from the University of New Mexico. She’s worked as a programmer for IBM before returning to NM to attend Medical School. She volunteered as an HSA officer before joining Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School in 2006 to pioneer the computer program helping to raise parent satisfaction level to 98% from 27%. She also directed the Rosetta Stone Program for a couple of years.

    Her favorite memories are when she was able to help staff and students solve computer issues. In a world of ever changing technology she enjoys learning and helping students learn about technology challenges on a daily basis.

    Mrs. Saiz loves to read, travel and spend time with her family. She also enjoys walking her dog, and figuring out puzzles!

    Quote she loves:

    “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” – Saint Augustine

  • David Sauter is the physical education and health teacher at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School. Mr. Sauter has over 30 years of teaching experience including both elementary and middle school. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico, and a Master’s in Education, also from UNM. Mr. Sauter joined the OLA staff in 2016.

    Mr. Sauter enjoys athletic activities of all kinds. He is also fond of music, movies, traveling, and spending time with his family. Mr. Sauter’s goal for his classes is to promote a healthy lifestyle, teach the skills of athletic activities, and of course, to have fun.

  • Ms. Gloria Smelker received her Bachelor of Science and masters at Western New Mexico University. She earned her degree in language and science, and is a level 3 teacher. She has taught first, second, and third grade. Ms. Smelker tutored students who were sick and unable to attend school. She is also a religious teacher at St. John XXIII Catholic Community.

    Ms. Smelker’s favorite memories are growing up with her six brothers and sisters. Her father was in the Air Force and her family was privileged to travel the world. She was also a farm wife, raising her three children in the country, driving grain trucks, raising chickens, and growing strawberries and vegetables. Ms. Smelker loves to make bread, share it, and enter it into the New Mexico State Fair. She enjoys taking her children and grandchildren on trips, exposing them to all the beauty God has created. She loves teaching children especially at a catholic school, where she can speak of the many stories about how much Jesus loves us and came to Earth to teach the truth. When Ms. Smelker’s students finish first grade, they are proficient in math, writing and reading, and walk out knowing “Jesus is their best friend”.

    Quote she loves:

    “I will listen to what God the Lord will say.” PSALM 85:8

  • Mrs. Sweeney retired from APS, where she worked in the Special Ed department for 21 years. Mrs. Sweeney has been at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School for 3 years as an Educational assistant in the first grade. Mrs. Sweeney has been faithfully enlightened since being at Our Lady of the Assumption school.

    Mrs. Sweeney has two daughters. The oldest is married with three children; while her youngest is seeking a degree in counseling at CNM. Mrs. Sweeney loves spending time with her family and also enjoys shopping and eating out. Mrs. Sweeney believes that teaching should be student – centered and students should be accountable for their learning and behavior. As a teacher’s assistant, she helps her students acquire the communication skills, problem solving skills, and critical thinking skills, which will enable them to be life long learners. She believes students should learn to be independent but still have the skills necessary to work constructively as a team. Mrs. Sweeney looks forward to meeting and working with each and every student.

  • Sra. Tanuz is a Spanish teacher who received her Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish back in 1992 and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Minor in Bilingual Education in 1995. Sra. Tanuz is a native Spanish speaker with many years of experience teaching at all levels and language proficiency from Jr.K to College level courses in Arizona and New Mexico. Sra. Tanuz had the privilege to be part of the committee to develop a new Spanish Curriculum for Jr.K-8th grades for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The Spanish Curriculum was completed on July of 2011 and is currently use in all our Catholic Schools. The curriculum is designed to provide a strong foundation of the language and ensures a steady academic growth. An important part of the current curriculum includes a religious focus.

    Sra. Tanuz loves spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys the outdoors, traveling, listening to music, photography, and scrapbooking.

    Quotes she loves:

    “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” –Frank Smith

    “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” –Rita Mae Brown

  • Mrs. Mary Wentworth received her BA in English and Speech & Theater and her MS in Counseling Education from Indiana University. Mrs. Wentworth is a teacher as well as a licensed school counselor. Before moving to New Mexico, she and her husband lived in California where she taught school and worked as a case worker for the blind, mentally ill, mentally challenged and industrially injured.

    When she and her husband moved to Albuquerque, she obtained her New Mexico State Teaching License and began teaching for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. She taught for two years at St. Charles, and upon the request of her Pastor at that time, Fr. Luis Jaramillo, moved to Our Lady of the Assumption where she has been ever since. She is the eighth grade homeroom teacher and teaches Religion, Language Arts and Literature to the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

    Mrs. Wentworth loves the Church, children and animals. In her spare time, she does a lot of work for the Church, and she is an avid reader.

    Quote she loves:

    “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Rhonda Yrene was born and raised in Albuquerque and is an alumni of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School (1981). Her childhood home is only a block away from the school. Rhonda and her husband are Highland High graduates and were high school sweethearts. Rhonda attended NMSU along with ENMSU and other colleges in AZ.

    She has been married to Golf Professional, Don Yrene for 30 years and has 3 beautiful children Maia, Adam, Jake and a Beagle named Gabbie.  Her husband’s new position here in Albuquerque moved their family back to her roots from Bourbonnais, Illinois where she was an Administrative Assistant at Bishop McNamara Catholic School.

    Rhonda is passionate about her faith, family and friends. She is hoping the Land of Enchantment will be her final destination for many years to come. Rhonda loves the out doors and loves to read and spend time with her children, family and friends. Her faith is what gets her through life and is happy to be employed at OLA where she grew up.